Film Review: 21 Jump Street

(Published in Issue 8 of my publication In Retrospect)


Directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, 21 Jump Street is a loose sequel to the TV series of the same name, that originally starred Johnny Depp and aired in the late 80s. Centring on two police officers, Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) are old high school classmates who become friends during police academy and end up becoming partners. Because of their young appearances, the two are sent to work under the authority of Captain Dickson (Ice Cube), where they are then made to go undercover in a local high school to stop a new synthetic drug from spreading to other campuses by finding the supplier.

Set in high school, 21 Jump Street is not a typical teenage drama. No pressure on relationships, no overly obsessive romantic situations, and no clichés, it’s crude and immature, but surprisingly this is one of the film’s biggest highlights. Co-written by Hill and Michael Bacall, the dialogue is one of the great things about this film. We are very used to Hill acting as the – now skinny – funny guy, but it’s good to see that he can put it down on paper too.

What’s good about the script is that it often takes the piss out of itself. Whilst in a lot of cases this can be a sign of worse things to come, this technique actually really works here. A favourite running joke was one revolved around unnecessary explosions that comedies often try to fit in, which in this case involved a van carting chickens. But whilst this may make an older audience laugh, it’s 15 rating means that it cannot be enjoyed by anyone younger. Is this part of the film’s success? I would say that it is; it’s a high school comedy for adults, and that’s something you don’t get to say often.

With Jonah Hill also starring in the film, 21 Jump Street is far from Superbad. Whilst we can expect a certain type of comedy from Hill, you can see how his acting – mixed with his own writing – has far progressed since getting an Oscar-nomination for his role in Moneyball. What was surprising, however, was finding yourself actually enjoying the on-screen company of Channing Tatum. This is the first film that he has starred in that I have wanted to watch, as with many of his others I have purposefully avoided. The two leads are an unexpected but effective duo, and it is the combination of these two actors as to why the film is constantly funny.

Nevertheless, there is a fairly decent backing cast too, as the duo become part of a gang that includes Eric (Dave Franco) and Molly (Brie Larson) and find themselves only too often bumping into one of the school’s teachers, Mr. Walters (Rob Riggle). Not really worth more of a mention than that, it would be hard not to mention Johnny Depp‘s cameo appearance from his role in the TV series. We all knew that it was coming at some point, but it still came as a total surprise. Whilst at first I was a little pessimistic about this aspect of the film, it was generally quite a nice addition to the film and provoked even more laughter.

Whilst 21 Jump Street isn’t anything special, it’s not the same-old regurgitated crap that we often have to put up with these days. Many of the reviews I have read about this film have complimented how funny the film is, and most of these have come from a second or even third viewing. 21 Jump Street is a good comedy, but it didn’t make me laugh any more than usual. I’m sure most will disagree, however, so go and see it, and I’m sure you will be laughing enough to find yourself enjoying it too.

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