Wednesday, March 28, 2012

21 Jump Street

Get out your backpacks and handguns, we're going back to highschool! I mean reviewing 21 Jump Street.

This is a pretty fun and pretty funny film.  Although be warned, it does take place 90% in high school, so prepared to watch a lot of painful awkward moments. Minor plot spoilers follow.

Schmidt(Jonah Hill) and Jenko(Channing Tatum) are a couple of piss poor police officers just out of the academy. Jenko is tough but not too bright and Schmidt is smart but sheepish. Together, they can barely form one functioning police officer, so the Deputy Chief(Nick Offerman) sends them to a reinstated program that puts young looking police officers back in high school. But will they get too sucked into the horror hurricane from whence we all came?!

I'm not surprised that it's a funny movie(so many people have been saying it is) but I am surprised at its long variety of humor and how well it sustains the laughs through to the very end.  There's sight gags, there's schtick from Hill and Tatum, there's unexpected humor, there are a few funny cameos and even some meta humor about the movie industry!  aaaawwww yeaaaah meta humor...I mean jokes. Lot's of jokes is what I'm saying.

I am surprised at how good a cast it is, and how well it works. Jonah Hill is still as funny awkward as he was when he was smaller and rounder.  Channing Tatum is fun and acts well when he's acting like Channing Tatum.  The rest of the cast including Rob Riggle, Ice Cube, and Chris Parnell are equally funny in their roles.  It's also great to see Brie Larson again after her role in Scott Pilgrim!

The only problem I have is that, taking place in High School, the movie can get super awkward. It might not be a problem for some, but awkward moments are my kryptonite.  Oh no he can't ask her to the prom, and now he's making an awkward joke...bleah. Thankfully the bulk of the awkwardness only takes place in the first and second acts.  I should warn it does have some crude humor involving penises and humping, if that's not your thing.

Also kind of a weird thing, Jenko has a love interest in a girl he meets in high school. No one thinks that's weird? Even if she's at MOST 18, he's got to be like 25. And that's ok?  Even after she finds out he's an undercover cop?  I would have liekd to see some humorous moments of someone telling him "Dude, she's in high school and you're a fully grown man. What's wrong with you."

I'm also amazed how quickly it got to the main premise. They wasted no time establishing their highschool lives, going through the police academy, and getting indoctrinated into the jumpstreet program so they can get to the meat of the film in high school.  This movie has great pacing. It might feel by the numbers to some(heroes feel awkwrad, then heroes feel great, then they're at their lowest, blah blah blah) but I think it has just the right amount of structure to keep everything on track.

What I really like about the story is the twist they pull. Jenko is all set to go back to school because he was a jock and it was awesome. Schmidt on the other hand is dreading it because he was an awkward nerd and it was a living hell(as it was for all of us normal people).  But when they finally get there, they find that the meek have inherited the earth, the cool kids are now nerdy, studious and care about the environment, making Jenko look weird and Schmidt look cool!  It's very satisfying.  And the high school does feel fairly real, even if their prom is as over the top as any other high school movie.

The action sequences are fun, over the top, and work perfectly with the humor.  It has a number of cool car chases and shootouts, lots of stuff exploding(or Michael Baying as we like to call it in the business), and a huge intense final act blowout.  Overall it's a little awkward, but funny and fun.

THE GOOD: fun action sequences, funny, hill and tatum play off each other, good pacing
THE BAD: awkward and crude humor
THE VERDICT: Go see it! It's a fun film. You will laugh probably after cringing a bunch.
MOVIES LIKE IT: Every other buddy cop movie ever.
ONE-SCENE METAPHOR: Jenko and Schmidt have to take drugs so they don't blow their cover and subsequently trip balls.


  1. Hill and Tatum are great together here and add a lot to this film’s comedy but it’s just the way it is all written that makes it even richer. It’s making fun of those high school comedy conventions but at the same time, is inventing it’s own as it goes on. Great review.

  2. Thanks! I agree it's paying homage to those other comedies while taking that humor and turning it on its head.