“The Only Thing Getting Blown Tonight Is Their Cover”
“They’re Getting Too Old For This Shift”
If the tag lines on the posters don’t give it away, 21 Jump Street — based on the serious bubblegum series of the 80s — is taking a humorous look at the original source material, and amping things up for the 21st Century crowd. And I’ll admit it had me laughing my ass off in the theater, press section or no press section. I loved it, plain and simple.
21 Jump Street takes the basics of the tv show, and introduces a spin that makes this movie worth watching. It takes the serious, hard-boiled coppers and replaces them with newly minted idiots that barely know how to hold their guns, let alone perform a successful sting operation. Officers Jenko (Channing Tatum) and Schmidt (Jonah Hill) are the two guys on the force you kinda guess ended up at the bottom of their graduating class. Jenko, an idiot who can muscle his way around anything, and Schmidt, the brain that can’t back up his knowledge with action, are old high-school classmates who never ran in the same circles. Ever. But they bond at basic training, each one having what the other needs. But when they get bounced out of bike patrol (thanks to a bust that they botch up so spectacularly I’m sure every cop in America wishes they could do the same thing at least once), they land in Jump Street, a group of “Justin Beaver, Miley Cirus lookin’ muthas.” As they try to figure out how to stop the spread of a new drug that has hit the scene, both officers have to play out their high school problems. Things are different now than they were when these two were in high school, and their roles quickly get reversed in this new land of political correctness, earth awareness and nerd chic.
This movie gets an R rating not for boobies or blood, but for language and “crude humor” and drug use. Think of this movie as John Hughes on crack, and you’ll get the general vibe. And it’s pulled off beautifully by a cast that knows exactly how to plant tongue firmly in cheek. Ice Cube plays the head of Jump Street, Captain Dickson, with the usual supervisory rage disorder all tv cop higher-ups seem to struggle with. Rob Riggle (The Daily Show) plays gym teacher/coach Dickson with a testosterone run amok vibe, and Ellie Kemper (Bridesmaids) plays Ms. Griggs, a teacher that has a hard time with Freudian slips while teaching hot “young” Jenko. Dave Franco (yes, he’s James’ bro) plays crunchy drug pusher Eric Molson with a holier-than-thou leer, the poster boy for upper middle class pretension.
Speaking of Jenko and his partner Schmidt, I have to say that when I heard that Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill were being cast as partners in this movie, I had to swallow my initial reaction. I didn’t think they’d work together well; it seemed as if those two had different trajectories in the film stratosphere. But as the two officers tapped to go undercover at the high school they graduated from, their comic chemistry is undeniable. Things get even better when the tailor-made covers that were created for them get switched up due to their own forgetfulness. Seeing Tatum’s Jenko trying to fit in to AP Chemistry and Hill’s Schmidt try to overcome his esteem problems and succeed in drama class? Priceless. Bonus points to Michael Bacall (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) for writing the scenes that break down exactly how the new drug on the street works, complete with groovy comic-book graphics and wild FX. Think Scott Pilgrim vs. Crack. Awesome.
And yes, those rumors are true; there are plenty of original cast cameos here. You’ll see Holly Robinson Peete as a police officer at the start of the film, as well as Officers Penhall and Hanson (that’s Johnny Depp and Pete DeLuise) in the movie’s climax. And if you’re eagle-eyed, check out the tv playing in the background during that scene for a tip-of-the-hat to original cast member Dustin Nguyen (Officer Ioki).
All in all, this movie works for fans of the original show and the teens-n-twenty-somethings that have never seen it but love ’em some Tatum and Hill. This film finds humor at every level without sinking to disgust, brings out the best in all the actors, and even gives a nice salute to the original. If this is the start of a beautiful new season of film, bring it.