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The Independent Critic

Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube, Brie Larson, Dave Franco, Nick Offerman, Rob Riggle
Chris Miller, Phil Lord
Jonah Hill, Michael Bacall, Patrick Hasburgh (television series), Stephen J. Cannell (television series)
Rated R
106 Mins.
Columbia Pictures
Commentary w/Directors & Cast; Behind-The-Scenes Featurette; 4 Deleted Scenes; Ultraviolet Digital Copy

 "21 Jump Street" Review 
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Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) weren't friends in high school. They weren't really enemies either. In fact, they barely lived in the same stratosphere. Schmidt was your standard-issue overweight nerd, the whose a complete brainiac but completely devoid of anything resembling social skills. Jenko, on the other hand, was the high school hottie/jock whose popularity was as high as his I.Q. was low.

In other words, Schmidt and Jenko really didn't even much know each other except for that time when Schmidt humiliated himself by fumbling through a feeble attempt to ask a girl to the prom.

Flash forward a few years and life has changed for both young men.

But not much.

Both guys are now at the police academy, with Schmidt acing all the tests but nothing else and Jenko a physical hotshot who can't seem to pass a test to save his life. Needless to say, a cooperative relationship is born. In the end, both Schmidt and Jenko end up passing their exams and get prepared for a life of action and kickin' a**...on bike patrol. After a couple failures, both are re-assigned to a rejuvenated program, I'll give you one guess, working undercover to investigate a new drug that has infiltrated the local high school.

Yep. 21 Jump Street, that television series that turned on Johnny Depp's Hollywood star, is back and on the big screen. Actually, 21 Jump Street the movie is more like an "inspired by" version of the television series rather than a faithful homage to the series that ran from 1987-1991. At times, I found myself thinking of Starsky & Hutch if, perhaps, Starsky & Hutch had screwed up for a few years before becoming really cool and effective cops.

If you can flow with the absurdity of it all, you will have yourself a blast at 21 Jump Street even while realizing that the movie itself isn't anywhere near a masterpiece. There are times when you go to a movie just because you want to laugh your a** off, and 21 Jump Street gives you the perfect opportunity.

Hill, who is coming off his Oscar nomination for Moneyball, has a gift for making low-brow comedy seem effortless. But, if we're being honest what he does here is beyond your run-of-the-mill pottymouth comedy (though there's certainly an abundance of pottymouth humor and dick jokes). Hill, who co-wrote the script, is a master at finding the varying degrees of a character and he does so with wonderful results in 21 Jump Street. Hill's Schmidt is funny, we already know that, but he's also incredibly sweet and infinitely likable. Heck, that's why we keep showing up to Jonah Hill films (for the most part!). Hill has an impressive ability to create characters who are laughably but authentically human.

The real surprise here may very well be just how impressive Channing Tatum is as Jenko.

Take a moment to process that statement.


No, really. As much as I've harassed the guy, at times unmercifully, he pulls off a deadpan humor here that fits perfectly with Jonah Hill. Tatum, who does continue to grow as an actor mostly out of his own commitment to keep challenging himself, may very well have his most satisfying non-beefcake role here (though he certainly gets beefcake moments).

There's so much about 21 Jump Street that is completely ludicrous, including just the basic set-up of Hill and Tatum being sent off into a high school as brothers, that if you have an inability to surrender to it all then you're likely going to suffer your way through the film's 106-minute running time. Between completely ludicrous set-ups and far too many dick jokes, even including Captain Dickson (Ice Cube), those who don't enjoy the film are likely going to be quite vocal about it. It's hard to deny, though, that 21 Jump Street is a heck of a lot better than any of us ever really expected.

Ice Cube plays your ordinary police captain, again making me think of Starsky & Hutch, and the film features an abundance of cameos that may very well put a smile on your face. The most effective cameo likely belongs to Holly Peete, a member of the original cast. But, you'll probably not be disappointed by the others.

The action sequences in 21 Jump Street are for the most part fairly disappointing but, if we're being honest, this is a film way more about the comedy and the mis-matched "buddy" pairing of Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. Though, when you think about it, this pairing isn't nearly as odd as that of Hill and Brad Pitt.

But, I digress.

It's simply really. Do you want to laugh? Do you find Hill's usual brand of humor funny? If so, you'll likely have a blast at 21 Jump Street. Can't stand Jonah Hill and don't find him funny? You won't here, either.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic