Movie Review: 21 Jump Street
Austin360.com | Austin American-Statesman
"21 Jump Street," in which a pair of young-looking rookie cops (Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill) go undercover in a high school, keeps viewers in a state of breathless laughter from beginning to end. Skirting the easy raunch of some R-rated comedies in favor of clever sight gags, perfectly timed reactions and well-written dialogue, "Jump Street" rarely disappoints.
As a television show, "21 Jump Street" was deadly sincere, addressing serious issues of teenage life such as suicide and drug use, and participating fully in the ‘80s-era moral panic over teen waywardness. The movie, on the other hand, throws all of that concern out of the window. Despite warnings from their superiors, Officers Schmidt (Hill) and Jenko (Tatum) throw a huge party while undercover, take drugs at school (which results in a hilarious hallucination sequence), romance a high school senior, and flirt with a hot-to-trot teacher. In the end, none of this misbehavior really matters; the kids are, as they say, all right.
Tatum and Hill make the perfect mismatched comedic pair. Hill's Schmidt is the insecure good guy, and Tatum's Jenko is the meathead with a heart of gold. High school acquaintances separated by the gulf in social status between nerd and jock, they re-connect at the police academy and become friends and partners.
Their friendship is threatened, however, when it becomes clear that in the new social order, caring about stuff is cool, backpacks should be worn with two straps and organized sports are "fascist." (The befuddled Jenko knows what to blame for this change: the television show "Glee.") The reversal provides great material for comedic moments, as when Jenko punches a fellow student in a mistaken display of dominance and becomes instantly uncool.
Phil Lord and Chris Miller, whose only previous credit as directors is the children's animated feature "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" (2009), are meticulous in their choices. The success with which they sketch the relationship between the two officers, describe the social scene at the high school, and execute the movie's action sequences indicates that they have a great future in the world of the R rating.
The supporting characters add depth to the comedic pairing of Tatum and Hill. Some of the best are Chris Parnell (perhaps best known as Dr. Spaceman from "30 Rock") as the pretentious high school drama teacher; Ice Cube as the irascible chief in charge of the Jump Street project; and Nick Offerman as a deputy police chief. Rob Riggle, as the gym teacher, steals every scene he's in. A surprise cameo appearance near the end of the movie is perfectly timed and executed.
The "Jump Street" stars and directors have said that they are eager to make "Jump Street" into a franchise, noting that ideas for a sequel are already under way. If this film succeeds the way it should, they'll get their chance.