While nerdy geek Scmidt (Hill) and popular jock Jenko (Tatum) weren’t friends at High School, they forge a bond during police academy and soon become both best friends and partners. After failing at conventional police work, their youthful looks result in reassignment to an undercover programme which sees them pose as high schoolers in order to locate the manufacturer of a new designer drug. With Scmidt now positioned among the popular kids and Jenko in amongst the nerds, High School is a very different experience second time around…
Aside from making a fresh-faced, pre-quirk, pre-Tim-Burton Johnny Depp famous, it’s unlikely that many audience members under the age of 30 will be familiar with TV series 21 Jump Street. But while the idea of digging up a forgotten ’80s cop show and transforming it into an R-rated mainstream comedy hardly inspired much confidence, the result is surprisingly enjoyable and much funnier than expected. Knowing, self-aware and unexpectedly meta (see the very amusing speech about the fact that nobody does anything original anymore), 21 Jump Street affectionately sends up the action-cop genre while also working as a great teen movie in its own right.
Making some very astute observations about how the social landscape has changed significantly for high schoolers in recent times, co-writers Jonah Hill and Michael Bacall (Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World) point out that bullish alpha males no longer rule the roost while nerdy creative types are now celebrated. A slimmed-down Hill employs his usual awkward schtick to amusing effect (noticing his Mum’s photo collage of him, he complains: “It looks like I died in a car crash and you guys haven’t moved on”), but the real surprise is Channing Tatum, who proves a natural at comedy. Ice Cube’s “angry black captain” feels like he belongs in a different movie, but Dave Franco (yes, James’ less famous brother) is well-cast as the school’s unlikeable cool kid, Ellie Kemper is fun as a pervy teacher and there’s a nice climactic cameo. Or, depending on how old you are, cameos plural. Sure, the story is predictable overall, but it’s very satisfying and consistently amusing.
Though the idea of digging up an old cop show and transforming it into an R-rated mainstream comedy hardly inspired much the confidence, the result is surprisingly entertaining and consistently funny. Great stuff.