Directed By: Phil Lord and Christopher Miller
Starring: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum
Reviewed By: Darryl Griffiths
The American contingent aside, a show called ’21 Jump Street’ pencilled by Fox in the late 80’s and starring now Hollywood A lister Johnny Depp will fail to spark up many people’s memory banks. But never fear film fans.. thanks to Jonah Hill (fresh off a terrific turn in Moneyball) and scriptwriter Michael Bacall, they are providing us a loose revival full to the brim with charming bromance and crude jokes. It’s not the first time a TV show has been the key inspiration behind a film, but i highly doubt they’ve delivered the funny quite like this foul mouthed gem!
The unlikely pairing of Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are Schimdt and Jenko respectfully. The opening prologue of their high school days displays they were at completely different ends of the popularity spectrum. Schimdt the big boned geek who seeked comfort in rap music and Jenko the classic alpha male with the brain capacity of a peanut. Their paths cross once more nearly a decade later as they both attempt to become highly regarded police officers. Arguably more ‘mature’, they eventually bond over each other’s weaknesses.
This belief is soon extinguished whilst patrolling.. landing them in a recommisoned programme on Jump Street ran by a captain, who seems to be in need of anger management lessons (Ice Cube). Their assignment revolves around going undercover as students and leading an investigation of a high school drug ring. Instinctively, they assume their personas from a bygone era will carry them through, but once they are met with such a eclectic mix of new age students.. the anxieties take over.
Plotwise, ’21 Jump Street’ essentially leaves the audience feeding off scraps. Luckily, the film’s gung ho approach to the gags and surprisingly well staged action wins the day. Whether it’s the intertextual nods to its original source material and other buddy movies, the grossout gags we’ve come to expect from high school based comedies (fingering mouths!?) or the smart observations portraying the dramatic shifts in teen’s perceptions, it is frequently and side splittingly hilarious. Even the direction is quirky at times, especially in the student drug effects sequences that directors Lord and Miller can’t help but put a mischevious spin on.
We’ve grown accustomed to Jonah’s mix of likeability and sharp wit and whilst he’s on form again here, Tatum is the overwhelming presence here (words i never thought i’d type!). I’ve always been critical of Tatum’s previous performances and him having about as much charisma as a wax statue, but here he emerges with a display of great comic precision in his delivery that begs the question.. why didn’t he make such a career swerve before now?
’21 Jump Street’ may be completely chaotic and bonkers, but at least it embraces that fact. Occasionally scattershot? Absolutely. As far as comedies in 2012 go though.. it’s the one to beat!
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