Title: 21 Jump Street
Reviewed for Shockya by Harvey Karten
Director: Phil Lord, Chris Miller
Screenwriter: Michael Bacall, story by Michael Bacall based on the TV series created by Patrick Hasburgh, Stephen J. Cannell
Cast: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Brie Larson, Dave Franco, Rob Riggle, DeRay Davis
Screened at: Regal E-Walk, NYC, 3/12/12
Opens: March 16, 2012
When critics talk about the chemistry or lack of same between two principal actors, they generally relate to male-female combinations who are similar in temperament. Yet you’re not likely this year to find better chemistry than that created between two people whose characters are unlike in every way: Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. In this modernized version of the 1980’s TV series “21 Jump Street” which starred Johnny Depp (who gets a cameo in this version), Phil Lord and Chris Miller milk scripter Michael Bacall’s dick jokes to the max. The result is a genuine comedy, hiliarious at some points, but one which almost falls apart once the high physical action of car crashes and explosions take root.
As two cops directed by their captain (Ice Cube) to infiltrate a high school drug ring, Hill and Tatum are too old to convince anyone that they’re students, or that’s what you might think. After all one fellow is twenty-eight in real life and the other is thirty-one. But the audience—like the high school kids and the teachers—seem ready to buy into the fantasy since after all, this is absurdist comedy relying heavily on good slapstick, a raucous party, and vulgar dialogue and actions.
As for the differences between the two, Schmidt (Jonah Hill) was an honor roll student in high school in 2007 where he appears worked over by an Eminem-loving coiffeur , but the sort who was too tongue-tied to get a prom date. By contrast Jenko (Channing Tatum), was a dunce though presumably able to attract the young women by his good looks. Schmidt looks on the experience as a chance to relive his high-school days using the knowledge he picked up years back, but is uncomfortable with the way that the “in” boys like handsome Eric Molson (Dave Franco) would make a clean sweep of the coeds leaving him out once again.
The high spirits come partly from the vulgar repartee, some from the sentiment from Schmidt’s relationship with the hot Molly (Brie Larson), and the slapstick particularly from the way Schmidt and Jenko trash a widely attended school production of “Peter Pan.” One terrific blend of animation comes when Schmidt and Jenko are forced to swallow drugs (LSD?) that find them seeing Mickey Mouse-like faces on the people with whom they are speaking.
Though the cool party thrown by Schmidt in his parents’ home can’t compare with the Dionysian extremes found in Todd Phillips’s “Project X,” the entire picture filmed by Barry Peterson, swiftly edited by Joel Negron, makes one regret being born too early. Now is the best time to take your place among the goths, the jocks and the nerds for whom school in general offers one helluva lot more fun than Trigonometry class.
Rated R. 110 minutes (c) 2012 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – B
Acting – B+
Technical – B+
Overall – B+