Theatrical Review: 21 JUMP STREET

John Mulhern

March 18th, 2012

I don't know about you guys, but all these countless remakes, re-imaginings, and rehashes have gotten on my last nerve. You'd think that in a world where extremely creative, non-derivitive films like INCEPTION and HUGO (although based on a book) are released, we would get less films based off past movies and TV shows. That's why when a 21 JUMP STREET film was announced, everyone was so apprehensive. I mean, the original show, which starred a young Johnny Depp, isn't even looked at with all that much reverence these days. Until the people behind this version were announced, there was little reason to get excited.

The film takes the basic concept of the show, young cops going undercover in a high school to bust drug dealers, and flips it completely on its head. Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) were never really friends in high school. Jenko, being the most popular guy in the school, could never have been friends with Schmidt - he was just too nerdy. That is, until they meet again years later in Police Academy. They realize that if they join forces they could help each other make it through the academy. This leads to them becoming best friends who are terrible at their job. Ultimately, their naïveté and youthful looks lead them to the precinct on 21 Jump Street, where they are sent back to High School to infiltrate a drug ring.


That is about where the influence of the show ends, and the movie is the better for it. They take that concept and put a somewhat Apatowian, SUPERBAD-style of comedy on top of it. They didn't forget the action either, and the blend works well. The action sequence toward the third act takes place on a freeway - it's exciting, yet still makes room for several laughs. The film knows what it is, and in one scene near the beginning it makes fun of itself for being based off a moderately obscure television series. The movie takes a lot of turns you would never expect, in a completely enjoyable way. A lot of movies end at the Prom, but I guarantee none of them end like this one does.

Everybody in the movie brings their A-game. Hill and Tatum have really great chemistry with one another, and make for a duo you don't want to stop following. On that note, I must admit, I'm not the biggest fan of Tatum's work. In this film though, he completely won me over. I hope that this film leads him toward more comedic projects. The much slimmer Hill brings the funny as usual, but doesn't forget to bring his post-MONEYBALL chops. James Franco's younger brother Dave plays an eco-friendly drug dealer, and is definitely one of my favorite characters in JUMP STREET. Of course, Ice Cube steals the show as the head of the undercover division. He is at his most brash, and brings non-stop hilarity.

The chemistry between Tatum and Hill really is what holds the film together, as their friendship is put to the test throughout the course of the film. Tatum's cool guy persona doesn't swing in a modern day high school, and Hill's smarts make him popular. That dichotomy and character flip help them both discover a lot about themselves, and the value of their friendship.

But don't let that mushy paragraph fool you, this film is very dirty. It earns it's R-rating with extremely harsh language, drug use, and a scene involving a missing appendage. Needless to say, it isn't for the faint of heart. But if you're into this sort of film, it's a guaranteed laugh riot you won't want to miss.

21 JUMP STREET certainly lives up to the hype, and it is a great start to what could be a very popular new franchise. For a film that is so inspired by the old, it isn't afraid to try something  new.

Grade: B

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  • Dan O’Neill

    Hill and Tatum are great together here and add a lot to this film’s comedy but it’s just the way it is all written that makes it even richer. It’s making fun of those high school comedy conventions but at the same time, is inventing it’s own as it goes on. Great review John. Give mine a look when you can.

    • John Mulhern

      Thanks for reading. I certainly agree with you! It’s self awareness certainly helped elevate the film to greatness!

  • filmgurl

    Definitely a film that turned on the expectations of its audience. When I first heard about it, I also thought it would be a typical remake of the original tv show. Though, it’s comedic twist threw me for a loop which I think was very clever. Nice review! 

    • John Mulhern

      Agreed, definitely a good surprise. I first got excited when I found out Hill was involved, glad it didn’t disappoint. Thanks for reading!

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