21 Jump Street (starring Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill)
As someone who never watched the television series 21 JUMP STREET starring Johnny Depp, I had no idea what to expect going into the film version roughly twenty years later. But if it was half as entertaining as it’s comedic film successor I’m a new fan. 21 JUMP STREET the movie is comedic brilliance at its best and is personally the funniest film I’ve seen in a very long time. And yes, I’m including BRIDESMAIDS (read the Movie Review). Be forewarned comedy is always subjective and 21 JUMP STREET is hard “R” rating for language but rarely do I see a film where the audience is laughing so loudly that the next joke is missed. The great thing is it doesn’t matter because another laugh out loud moment is right around the corner.
The film cleverly opens with a quick look at our heroes back in 2005 while they were attending the high school. We meet slim but soft Jonah Hill (fresh off his Academy Award nomination for MONEYBALL) as nerdy Schmidt, a Slim Shady look-alike sporting short blond hair. As Schmidt works up the courage to speak out of his braces filled mouth to ask a beautiful girl to prom, he is embarrassingly shot down. Long haired jock Jenko, played to perfection by a surprisingly funny Channing Tatum, is waiting nearby to brutally rub the shame into Schmidt’s face only then to be shot down himself when the principal explains that Jenko’s grades are too low to allow him to attend prom either. Both teenagers are on opposite sides of the social world but suffer similar pains. This quickly sets up the two enemies reconnecting as they try out for the police force seven years later. They both decide to help each other through their weaknesses with one another’s strengths. Schmidt helps Jenko with his studies while Jenko helps Schmidt with his conditioning.
Immediately the partners find themselves riding bicycles patrolling the city park as new police officers. After a montage of giving kids a hard time they come across their first bust – some rather large biker dudes smoking pot. Their excitement overcomes them as they mock the perpetrators in sexually suggestive ways while firing their guns in the air in celebration. However they forget the simplest task of reading the Miranda rights, which drops all the charges. As punishment, the two underachievers are sent to a new…well old operation task force to go undercover as students to find the supplier of a new drug making its way through high schools.
Unlike other films or television shows that hold to the Saved By The Bell clique mentality, 21 JUMP STREET embraces the eco friendly cool kid and the accepted gay black man that turns our heroes roles upside down with Tatum as the outcast and Hill as the popular kid. As they relive their high school years, neither quite know how to handle this new world of text messaging all conversations and two strap backpacks.
They are supported by a terrific cast that includes small parts from Ice Cube (FRIDAY, THREE KINGS), Dave Franco (James Franco’s little brother), Chris Parnell (SNL, Archer), Ellie Kemper (The Office, BRIDESMAIDS), Rob Riggle (Upright Citizens Brigade, THE HANGOVER), Jake M. Johnson (New Girl) and Nick Offerman (Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation). Plus one of the best-used cameos I’ve seen since Bill Murray in ZOMBIELAND. While all these actors help add to the overwhelming comedy, Hill and Tatum own the screen.
What sets 21 JUMP STREET apart from other buddy cop comedies is the amazing chemistry and comedic timing from our two lead actors and their characters embraced similarities. Yes one is slightly dumber and the other is less physically fit but both are exuberantly foolish in their excitement to be cops and equally talented, underachieving in different ways. Their support of one another through their faults is surprisingly sweet yet moronically funny. It’s almost like DUMB AND DUMBER meets LETHAL WEAPON meets HOT FUZZ. Some things are ridiculous while others are spot on honest but both aspects are ripe for hilarious antics and humorous observations. Every step along the way is another brilliant joke that not only pokes fun at the action genre but also at the very film they’re making. With so many funny lines and situations delivered perfectly by Tatum and Hill, I’m already eagerly anticipating the sequel that will surely come from the hopeful success of 21 JUMP STREET.