21 Jump Street (Dir. Phil Lord & Chris Miller, 2012) is a playful action-comedy written by Michael Bacall (Inglorious Basterds) and Jonah Hill (co-star of 21 Jump Street). Not to mention with a little bit of help from the 1987 Television Series, of the same name, starring Jonny Depp.
The film introduces an incompatible double-act, attempting to catch the supplier of a new synthetic drug that has made its way into the high school circuit. This is a perfect opportunity to dig up that classic narrative gem; uncover cops! More specifically; undercover cops in high school (a personal favourite of mine along with every other director of an action-comedy in the 90’s). And the film accepts the challenge of recreating the story gallantly.
However, I wasn’t expecting too much with a predictable double act of handsome stud; Channing Tatum (Dear John), and Jonah Hill (Superbad); arguably already typecast in his role. But surprise surprise, Tatum is actually quite funny (who would have known?) and Hill isn’t his ‘unattractive side-kick’. The film avoids the bromance trend of recent comedies and instead portrays an endearing sibling rivalry that is complicated by an unexpected role reversal in their high school identities. It even embraces the cheesy back stories of the 90’s with an ironic flashback scene of Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) playing amusingly eccentric versions of their youth. Schmidt dons some classic train-track braces and Jenko models a floppy haircut and boyish arrogance. The pair play their parts in a self-conscious fashion that combines their ability to be ‘in on the joke’ as actors, while simultaneously being the butt of the joke as characters.
With the director of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and the writer of kids show; Arthur, there is a certain amount of immaturity that the film thrives on. However, the language is a slight bit more strong, rude and cringe-worthy than Arthur… In my opinion, the gags would have been just as funny with out throwing in constant swearing and a sexual innuendo every other word. Who needs it when you have an argumentative car chase in a driving instructor’s, double-steering-wheeled car? Did I mention that one of the characters is dressed as Peter Pan too?
All in all, the film balanced just the right amount of self-conscious parody with original jokes and comical character. You couldn’t go as far to say that the story is unpredictable, but the stars are entertaining, charismatic and likeable enough to carry the film. It’s fair to say that if you liked Superbad (2007), Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008) or any other ‘Hillian’ movies, that you’ll love this too. For any real Jonah Hill fan, that was probably obvious from the moment he was advertised in a dapper white suit, awkwardly holding a gun; that’s doubtlessly going to have hilarious repercussions.