21 Jump Street

SXSW 2012 film review

21 Jump Street

Directors: Phil Lord & Christopher Miller | Screenplay by: Michael Bacall | Story by: Michael Bacall & Jonah Hill
Police officers Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) get sent back to high school as undercover cops in the action-comedy 21 Jump Street.
Cast: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Brie Larson, Dave Franco, Rob Riggle, with Ice Cube
(World Premiere)

Film Synopsis (from SXSW.com)

WHO’S IT FOR? It’s a little buddy cop, it’s a little fish out of water, it’s mostly funny.

OVERALL

Schmidt is a nerd. Jenko is a prom king. Most movies would leave it as simple as that. 21 Jump Street puts forth a solid effort and rises above your typical buddy cop flick. Shortly into the film I was absolutely hooked on the friendship that these two cops share during their training. After they over-react to their first taste of action on the force, they get sent to 21 Jump Street by their captain (Nick Offerman). If only I would have known I was only getting one scene with Offerman. I could have prepared for that sad realization, everything else is pretty crowd-pleasing.

Lord and Miller direct this film with one overwhelming comedic principle: misdirect. When you think the punch line will zip, they zag. A perfect example is the fact that once the boys go undercover at a high school to stop a new street drug, their roles get reversed. Instead of seeing Schmidt as the nerd, trying to get out of the same shell he was in during his actual high school experience, we see him as the popular one. Jenko is no longer the jock, but the nerd. The fact that the cool kids in high school actually have motivation and care about things like the environment is just another feather in this film’s cap.

Hill does hit the comedic notes, but what is surprising is there’s some heart here from Tatum. It’s a good pairing. Sure, the film overdoes a couple of car chases that are clearly just there to fulfill the “action” portion of this “action comedy” but it’s forgivable because they truly try to make you laugh during the process. The near explosions are one of the funnier parts of the film. They even get a good performance out of Ice Cube and have a pretty good cameo on top of everything else.

21 Jump Street is a great revival because they take the original ’80s subject, manipulate it into something different, reference the fact that they’re doing it, and get plenty of laughs along the way.

FINAL SCORE: 8/10

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