Title: 21 Jump Street
Directed By: Phil Lord
Starring: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube, Brie Larson, Rob Riggle, Dave Franco, DeRay Davis, Ellie Kemper
I’m not the laugh out loud type. You know that silent laugh where you hold it inside, smile and kind of bop up and down a bit? That’s me, so when I find a film that earns a boisterous laugh, you know, the kind where you just can’t stop and it becomes a bit embarrassing, I know I’ve got to recommend a movie.
Schmidt’s (Jonah Hill) got the brains and Jenko (Channing Tatum) the brawns; you’d think they’d make a solid team. The guys may be best buds, but when it comes to their police work, splitting the necessary skills isn’t particularly conducive to the gig. While busting some bad guys at the local park, Schmidt lets his suspect get away and Jenko forgets to read him the Miranda rights, leading the Deputy Chief to decide they’re both completely incompetent and banish them to 21 Jump Street, a station that specializes in doling out undercover high school assignments to officers with baby faces.
Soon enough, Schmidt and Jenko assume their new identities, Brad and Doug. Well, Schmidt was meant to be Brad, the student with a course load full of AP classes while Doug got the drama one and the lengthy sports resume, but a little mishap results in the wrong guy snagging the wrong file. Regardless, they must stay on mission – find the students responsible for dealing the deadly drug HFS and track down their supplier.
You know, this movie would make a great TV show! But seriously, that’s one of 21 Jump Street’s main assets; Schmidt and Jenko are two guys that are genuinely enjoyable to spend time with and Hill and Tatum carry the film effortlessly, letting it leap right over its primary fault, plot holes. There are a few items that simply don’t make sense like the deputy chief’s choice to supposedly demote them but then put them in the middle of a hot drug investigation as well as the tale of the unresolved piñata, but the fact that 21 Jump Street doesn’t really take itself all that seriously, lets those issues slide right by.
And that’s not to say the story isn’t a solid one. But of course, we’ve already been there and done that; it’s 21 Jump Street’s fresh style and modern gags that make it wildly entertaining. Tatum and Hill’s roles were tailor-made for the actors and they certainly use that to their advantage. Tatum leans on Hill a bit when it comes to the film’s more dramatic moments, but it’s a smart move as, while he can be quite funny, Tatum still wears that same stoic expression. It doesn’t suit the moments when he’s expected to emote, but when he’s looking all rough and tough setting off a backyard explosion with a trio of chemistry nerds, it’s pretty hilarious. As for Hill, he makes due on his character’s clumsy and uncool nature, but also handles Schmidt’s turnaround with ease, totally selling his relationship with the popular girl at school, Molly (Brie Larson).
Larson is one of a handful of supporting characters that manage to make quite the impression. While she’s clearly established as the cool girl, Larson gives Molly a little a bit of an unconventional flair, showing what makes her different and therefore, worthy of Schmidt’s attention. Ellie Kemper offers up a wonderfully awkward love interest for Jenko. She steps in as the geeky chemistry teacher who’s shocked to find such a manly man in her class. Most of her jokes involve an excessive amount of rambling that’s so uncomfortable to watch, you can’t help but to laugh. But the stand out supporting character here is definitely Ice Cube’s Captain Dickson, 21 Jump Street’s man in charge. Ice Cube owns his character, dishing out every command and curse with such force it’s the slightest bit terrifying, but absolutely hilarious all at once. The only two that are noticeably underdeveloped are DeRay Davis’ lead biker, Domingo, who doesn’t have enough to him to make for a threatening villain and Rob Riggle’s Mr. Walters who doesn’t earn his arc.
As good as the acting in 21 Jump Street is, one of the film’s best assets is the editing. It’s really no wonder Joel Negron knows how to work with the film’s action having films like Transformers: Dark of the Moon and The Karate Kid (2010) on his resume, but his spot-on comedic timing comes as a wonderful surprise. He gives performances a boost in quite a few instances, but his tour de force is definitely the films first act, when you’re just shy of being fully engrossed in the story and can’t help but to notice and appreciate how well this film is cut together.
21 Jump Street is certainly an above par buddy comedy, but is it laugh out loud funny? At times, but not the whole way through. The film clocks in at an hour and 20 minutes and could use perhaps a 15 minute trimming, but there’s enough fun to be had that you don’t mind wading in a brief lull to get to the next laugh.