21 Jump Street
Written by Michael Bacall & Jonah Hill
Directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller
21 Jump Street is a hilarious and entertaining action comedy that manages to be a police story, commentary on modern high school culture vs. just a few years ago, buddy comedy, and meta humor behemoth. It far exceeded the meager expectations I had going into it (in yet another advanced free screening for the public – Tars has sold out once again! Dammit, Tars, stop selling out!) Updating the original series seems like it would be easy, as the plot (cops that look young are sent undercover into high schools) is simplistic enough that one fears the script being from the land of Generic. But no one working on 21 Jump Street hitched a ride on the lazy train, instead they shot for the moon, and now the moon’s head is hanging above their fireplace.
When I was younger, I watched episodes of the original series, but for some reason I can’t seem to remember anything at all about the show. Even being reminded by Wikipedia and a few fan sites has refreshed nothing, so I’ll have to watch a few episodes to get memories back. Or maybe my mind has been overwritten with more Martian secret agent memories again…
Meta humor is strong in this one, with characters commenting on their behavior, Ice Cube as the angry black captain telling people to embrace their stereotypes, and various goofs against remakes and police film cliches/tropes. The high school setting becomes a playground for skewering modern teenage culture with the texting and viral videos while the cops become fish out of water on multiple levels, Schmidt suddenly becoming popular while Jenko is stuck with hanging out with the chemistry kids.
In high school, our two characters Schmidt and Jenko are from different cliques (Schmidt is a nerdy Slim Shady wannabe, while Jenko is the popular arrogant jock who never studies) and don’t like each other, even though both of their lives are filled with similar disappointment.
A few years later they run into each other at the police academy, where Schmidt is good at grades but not physical enough, and Jenko breezes past the physical part but fails the tests. They become friends to help each other pass (the entire three-minute sequence is the movie Feds!) and graduate, to get assigned to bike patrol.
Luckily, our heroes screw up enough on their first major bust to be sent to Jump Street. They’re sent to figure out where new type of drug is coming from, one that has killed one kid so far (who we see freak out thanks to a YouTube video) and is risking spreading to other schools.
Granola environut Eric Molson is the seller of the drugs, but the main issue is trying to find the supplier. Add to that Molson’s girlfriend and Schmidt having sort of a thing, Junko and Schmidt having brother-like arguments, the characters getting involved too deep in their high school identities, and a crazed motorcycle gang running around (called the 1 Percenters, because let’s throw some random class warfare into the film as well! Oddly enough, you could make that argument about the final car chase as well…) and things begin to get crazy.
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum work well together, you can get the sense that they are friends, and that they are very excited to do police work. The sequence where they grab a cool car from the police impound lot and then spend the next few minutes running into each other with the car while laughing hysterically is classic.
One of the more memorable chase sequences involves the main characters dressed in costumes (related to their various high school activities) having a driving gunfight through the city. I don’t want to spoil what happens, but you’ll know when you see it.
Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller gained deserved cult status through Clone High and Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs, and 21 Jump Street will be remembered as another of their successes. Hopefully their upcoming Lego movie will be just the same sort of crazy tone, because you can do all sorts of neat things with Lego.
21 Jump Street is a hilarious comedy, and keeps itself from becoming too serious and also too crazy. There is a slight bit of drag before the third act kicks in, but that is the only real slow period. From the extra scenes in the trailer not in the film, there is probably a lot of additional material shot but cut out for pacing reasons (which was a good choice.)
Rated 8/10 (red band, high school, high school, when did I get stabbed?, local chief, internet guy in a movie??, me fail, me not fail)
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