Friday, March 23, 2012
21 Jump Street is an unlikely, rewarding surprise
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are an unlikely action/comedy duo and yet the chemistry they have in this film is undeniable. I was never too high on Channing Tatum but I have to say he won me over here. I think a big reason for this is the great screenplay by Michael Bacall who developed the story with Jonah Hill. 21 Jump Street, of course, is an unnecessary remake of the tv show that aired in the late 80s/early 90s and the movie has no problems stating the obvious. It's self-referential without taking away from the movie, if anything, it adds to the overall experience. The movie basically asks you to take it as it is and enjoy the ride, that's very easy to do.
Jonah Hill plays Schmidt, Channing Tatum is Jenko; they both went to high school together but didn't become friends until they found themselves both in the police academy seven years later. Jenko is good at all the physical stuff but is a meathead (he can't even remember the Miranda Rights). Schmidt is the exact opposite: smart, but not very physically savvy. Their ineptitude eventually lands them in a weird, abandoned church that's actually an undercover police operation where Ice Cube, the stereotypically "angry black police Captain," tells them that they are now going undercover as high school students to find the source of the supply for a new synthetic drug which has infiltrated the high school.
What makes 21 Jump Street so fun to watch is how Schmidt and Jenko integrate themselves in a high school where many things have changed. The cool kids now wear their backpacks with two straps over their shoulders instead of one. Organized sports is laughed at, it's not cool to drive a gas guzzler. The roles for Schmidt and Jenko are brilliantly reversed as Schmidt becomes popular in the high school and Jenko is left to hang out with the chemistry geeks.
Obviously though, Tatum and Hill are the glue that holds this whole thing together. It's really remarkable how well they work together and yet you could've never guessed that was likely. Plus, there are tons of great supporting performances from Ice Cube, Rob Riggle, Ellie Kemper, and Dave Franco. 21 Jump Street is the best buddy cop action comedy to have come out in quite some time. It's always funny, sometimes it's uproariously funny. It never steers too far off its beaten path as it is very tightly written by the aforementioned Bacall as well as well-directed by the team of Phil Lord and Chris Miller. How good was 21 Jump Street? Well, when the ending hints at a sequel, I actually felt joy, instead of dread.