HOW OLD are you – 40?” asks a fellow student … Actually it’s been a little under 30 years since the original of this film jump-started the career of Johnny Depp. But make no mistake, 21 Jump Street is no cheesy reboot. It’s obvious that everyone from the writers to the directors to the actors to the producers (who also happen to be the actors) are trying to build off the former project, not skewer it into a run of the mill spoof. They bring trashy TV, action cinema and the YouTube generation together and mash it like a professional DJ.
The script, by Michael Bacall (Scott Pilgrim vs the World), rings brightly with sassy and salacious lines and sharp-edged characters, and what the directors, Phil Lord and Chris Miller (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs), lack in finesse, they make up for with attitude and the realisation that sometimes making fun of oneself is often the funniest comedy. They adapt a decidedly juvenile tone and it fits perfectly.
After Schmidt (28-year-old Hill) and Jenko (31-year-old Tatum) prove incapable of even menial police work, Deputy Chief Hardy (Nick Offerman, one scene but he nails it) assigns them to a new division, led by Captain Dickson (Ice Cube), an angry black man who explains that he’s an angry black man. “Embrace your stereotypes!” he blusters. He also explains the rules: don’t get expelled, don’t sleep with anyone, infiltrate the dealers and find the supplier.
And then there’s the assignment. “We’re reviving a cancelled undercover project from the ‘80s … The people behind this lack creativity and they’ve run out of ideas, so what they do now is just recycle shit from the past and hope that nobody will notice,” Deputy Chief Hardy tells his officers.
Thus, the once socially challenged (read: juggling club member) tubby loser Schmidt must return to high school to face what he fears is more persecution. Meanwhile, Jenko, the prototypical dumb jock finds himself facing a redefined social paradigm in which jocks now rank beneath the laid-back, eco-friendly types led by Eric (Dave Franco). The result is a cheeky inversion of the usual teen movie blueprint not to mention the fact that these ‘teens’ are obviously adults and yet no-one seems to care. Add a case of not knowing their own false identities and you’ve got comedy.
“I really thought this job would have more car chases and explosions … and less homeless people doodooing everywhere,” Jenko complains to Schmidt.
Two words described my opinion of Channing Tatum until this movie: God awful. Be it an action film or rom-com, he was often more wooden than the set furniture. However, he’s a revelation in the comedy genre with terrific timing and a sort of goofy sweetness. Let’s just hope his agent realises this as well. As the other lead, Hill holds up his end of the bargain. The rest of the cast, including Ice Cube put in solid performances that never leave us wondering why they were cast in the first place – a frequent pratfall in these types of comedies.
21 Jump Street is instantly one of my top all-time favourite comedies (though I also rank Office Space up there as well so take that as you will). There were numerous LOL moments, some great cameos and a refreshing ability to laugh at its own silliness.
21 Jump Street (11)
Dir: Phil Lord & Christopher Miller; US action/comedy, 2012, 109 mins; Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Brie Larson, Dave Franco, Rob Riggle, Deray Davis, Ice Cube
Premiered June 14