Movie Review: 21 Jump Street (2012)

Columbia Pictures
Runtime: 109 minutes
Rated: R (for violence, language, alcohol and drug-use, and sexual themes)
Directors: Phil Lord, Chris Miller
Writer: Michael Bacall
Starring: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube

Unlike the 1987 TV drama 21 Jump Street, the movie is not serious—not at all, in fact. It wears its smutty and raunchy double-servings of nastiness smeared on both sleeves and isn’t in the least ready to shy away from these badges of dishonor.

We begin when we meet two still-young-looking newbie cops, “Schmidt” (Jonah Hill) and “Jenko” (Channing Tatum), both of whom struggle with different aspects of the job. Schmidt is the “brains” while Jenko is the meaty “hands-on” jock who has trouble doing such things as reading Miranda Rights.

After one serious screw-up that results in a drug-user getting put back on the street, the two are tossed into the Jump Street division where they are put to work undercover at a high school where a new and dangerous drug called “HFS” is making the rounds and killing teenagers.

While at first you may find it difficult to accept that a 21 Jump Street reboot could be turned into anything actually funny, here we are sitting in front of...this. But it’s honestly the funniest movie of the year thus far, one of those films that actually lives up to how good the trailer makes it seem.

We watch Schmidt and Jenko get back into the high school groove, and of course, not fit in. Then their objective is challenged when the new social lives they’re making begin to threaten their ability to work together. And there’s an inevitable romance, too. Popular or unpopular, going back to school will open some wounds.

So we’re along for the ride, and it’s a comfortable one, although what never escapes the viewer is that no police department would run things this way or have these two clowns doing anything even remotely serious. We know it isn’t believable, but ask me if we care!

Ice Cube is “Captain Dickson.” His is one of the laugh-out-loud funniest performances of the entire presentation. In every single scene he’s in, he threatens to outshine both Hill and Tatum put together. There is one other celebrity appearance toward the film’s end. Those who knew the old show will recognize him when they see him.

21 Jump Street features some awesome character development with not one character being overused. Part of the entertainment value comes from how well these characters work together, as well as how well Tatum and Hill can so naturally offset each other.

And although its story doesn’t offer us anything profound, what it does do is provide some outrageously appealing humor that goes far beyond what would have been expected on the merits of the script by itself. And not all of the laughs are drug-focused teen drivel. There is real humor of varying kinds all over the place.