Synopsis: A pair of underachieving cops are sent back to a local high school to blend in and bring down a synthetic drug ring.
Stars: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube, Nick Offerman, Brie Larson, Dave Franco
Director: Phil Lord, Chris Miller
Running Length: 109 minutes
Random Crew Highlight: Makeup/Hair: Ice Cube – Debra Denson
TMMM Score: (7/10)
Review: Even though I’m a child of the 80’s, TV’s 21 Jump Street wasn’t something on my radar. It’s remembered for being Johnny Depp’s launching pad…and not much else. I came to the big-screen adaptation of 21 Jump Street with no preconceived notions or bias either way to the show itself. My personal feelings toward the “talents” of its stars notwithstanding, I had heard enough good things about this action-comedy to feel like it would be a good diversion.
To say that it was better than it should be is a modest understatement. While it may not be quite the laugh riot some critics and ads have made it out to be, this was still solid entertainment by a team that obviously knew their source material well and understood their audience. It’s no secret this flick is aimed squarely at men 18-28 (though I’m sure some lucky dad got bonus points for bringing his three under 10 children to the screening I attended) and that’s exactly the humor level. Don’t get me wrong, I laughed a lot and the movie does breeze by but the jokes can only go so far before you realize how easily attained they were. There’s no set-up or big payoff…the script just sorta throws a lot of comedy at you and prays that something will shtick…I mean, stick.
Even though I’m not the hugest fan of Hill or Tatum I must admit that both actors are more than serviceable in their roles as undercover cops infiltrating a high school drug ring. While not exactly Police Academy-style cops, their buffoonery in a quickly paced set up tells us that they didn’t graduate at the top of their class. Academy Award Nominee Hill (get used to that phrase comin’ atcha for a while), with his slimmed down look, also served as producer and is given story credit – that shows a lot of investment and its fully on display. He’s not asked to do more than play himself (or the version we’ve come to associate with him) and he does get some good moments. Whether joining the school play or romancing a lovely co-ed (the equally lovely Larson who feels like she walked in from a John Hughes film), he seems at ease with the material. Tatum is the impressive one here. He’s challenged here to not just look pretty and show his abs/butt (sorry ladies, Tatum shows no skin on Jump Street) and he ends up creating a fully developed character. Who knew?
The supporting cast is quickly forgotten…although with the amount of profanity spewed forth from Ice Cube it would be hard to erase the many variations of the F-bomb from your memory. For some reason I expected more celebrity cameos here but the ones that do show up are utilized to great effect. In fact, one celeb in particular elicited well-earned applause when they arrived onscreen.
Your enjoyment of 21 Jump Street doesn’t entirely depend on your memory of the original series. Chock full of timely pop-culture references and a cheeky awareness that they are recycling an old TV show, the film is decent entertainment for a trip to the theater or a rental at home. Based on the reaction when I saw it, I’ve the feeling the film will open big and that a sequel won’t be far behind.