21 Jump Street (2012) – Terrible cops kick it old school.
Let’s get this out of the way first: 21 Jump Street isn’t a straight up spoof, but really doesn’t take itself seriously at all. Nor does it have much in common with the 80′s television series by the same name. But what it does have going for it is lots of laughs, a surprisingly healthy dose of action, and Channing Tatum looking all hot and shit.
A lot of people don’t want to go see comedies in theatres. It’s expensive to go out, and the movie will probably be just as funny when it comes out on DVD in a few months, right? Well, maybe. See, there is also the idea that seeing a comedy in a collective, things you might not laugh at alone, when spurred by others laughing, you might just find yourself having a better time than you expected. This is probably how The Hangover 2 worked, or rather didn’t work as far as I am concerned. Fortunately, 21 Jump Street is just plain funny on its own. Putting quick talker Jonah Hill up against handsome and dumb Channing Tatum and sending them both back to high school as undercover officers is brilliant.
They’re there to check out the local dope show, and find out how to score the newest synthetic drug. Hilarity ensues. But not at first. See, when the film starts up, its in Obviously Trying Too Hard Mode™. It’s not until they accidentally switch undercover identities, forcing them to take a different popularity path than they were best suited for back when they went to school the first time. Situational comedy works so much better for this duo than rattling off one-liners any day of the week.
Eventually, after mining the drug itself for laughs, the losers decide to throw a party. Of course. And they end up going to prom. Of course. They even get to have a high speed car chase with multiple changes of vehicles. Of course? See, what’s so great about the last third of the movie, is things get SO out of control that even though the script is plowing through plot that we’ve seen hundreds of times in both teenage and buddy cop comedies, somehow combining them with a sort of knowing wink makes it worthwhile. It helps that Jonah Hill has been hard at work making quality comedy films for quite sometime. Channing Tatum? Well, he can just stand there and look pretty.
A surprise cameo (may not actually be a surprise at this point) during a surprisingly violent ending does serve well to put a cherry on top of this remarkable durable re-imagining of a pretty silly premised television show. Even if it’s unnecessarily overly vulgar and abundant with the gay jokes.