21 Jump Street
These Are The Guys You Made Fun Of In High School, And They're Back In High
Jonah Hill as Officer Schmidt and Channing Tatum as Officer Jenko in "21 Jump
Street", directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller.
Omar P.L. Moore/PopcornReel.com
Friday, March 16,
Phil Lord and Christopher Miller bring "21 Jump Street" to the big
screen in rip-roaring style, 21 years after the television series had its final
season. The action-comedy opened today across the U.S. and Canada, and
stars Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum as Louisiana police officers Schmidt and
Jenko, cops assigned to be students undercover at a high school to bust a
suspected drugs ring which has taken the life of a male student named Billiam,
whose five stages of drug-addled decline are a hit on YouTube.
The pulse of this break-neck, laugh-a-minute guilty pleasure throbs incessantly,
quickly following the high schol lows of nerd Schmidt and dunce-cap jock Jenko
then catapulting them seven years later as police academy grads embarking on
their first assignment. What's great about "21 Jump Street" is the
carnival of fun it has with its role reversal of the nerd-jock dynamic once the
mismatched Jenko and Schmidt break their metaphorical cherries as cops.
"21 Jump Street", an unbridled parody of both the television show and endless
big screen police-buddy dramas and comedies, has a sense of raw, no-holds-barred
adventure and a charm that's infectious.
Even when "21 Jump Street" becomes redundant it remains sharply entertaining,
with its mix of physical and smart-alecky humor. "21 Jump Street" never
advertises itself as anything higher brow than the silliness it is. It is
however, wise silliness, engineered by Michael Bacall's hilarious screenplay and
good acting by Mr. Hill ("The
Sitter", "Moneyball") and Mr. Tatum ("The
Vow"), acting that is the best part of the film, even without all its
juvenile exploits. Mr. Hill brings sweetness and nerdy awkwardness to the
table, while Mr. Tatum brings vacuous numbskull shtick, smartly calculated. Schmidt and Jenko, who barbed each other in their own
high school days, are buddies of accident and necessity who get to live
a little in each other's skin. Both want some of the other's attributes
for self-completion without having to inhabit the other's skin or circumstances
for the sake of a crime-fighting assignment.
The film's contrasting characters work, and Mr. Hill, and Mr. Tatum in
particular, shrewdly poke fun at the idea (and the original show's) that they
are young enough to be high school students. Both actors are in on all of
the jokes, alternately playing wise and dumb to them, with retorts at characters
with the gumption they wished they'd mustered more of when Schmidt and Jenko
really were high school students.
Mr. Lord and Mr. Miller's film is at its sharpest when it humorously defies and
laughs in the face of genre expectations at every turn. "21 Jump Street"
exuberantly throws the buddy-cop action film on its head, and doesn't relent.
Ice Cube is memorable as Captain Dickson, his blank stares as resolute as the
delivery and enunciation of his speech. Mr. Cube seems to do his level
best to rival
Samuel L. Jackson at saying the ignominious "motherfucker" in the
most eloquent way possible. When the chips really fall Dickson refuses to
shout like those other stereotypical black police commanders. Oh no -- not
Dickson. He won't go there. The film knowingly
sends up Ice Cube's reticence to play that barking game, cheekily countering and
overshadowing it with a rich, loud helping later of his hit rap song "Straight
Outta Compton". (The roof would have been laughed right off the theater
had Cube's "Fuck Tha Police" played instead.)
The film's music defiantly plays counter to its other elements. Its
soundtrack continuously beats with its subversive anthem of rap -- at least the
rap that is heavily anti-establishment or self-aggrandizing -- juxtaposed with
and against the film's figures of authority (police, teachers, parents).
Speaking of authority, Mr. Cube has become more appealing (if not mainstream)
over the years by playing against the renegade type that defined much of his
earlier music career and film roles. Since the box-office success of "Are
We There Yet?" Mr. Cube has smoothly transitioned to All-American Family Man and
"safe" establishment figure. (See "Rampart",
in which he's a police investigator of corrupt cop Woody Harrelson.)
Ellie Kemper ("Bridesmaids")
is amusing as a chemistry teacher who comes on to Jenko in class, try as she
might to save herself from blurring her role as teacher -- one skirted in
relationships with students in real news headlines -- with lusty lady. A
little of Ms. Kemper's lecher teacher goes a long way however, and in the film's
"Natural Born Killers"-type end credits a scene between between Mr. Tatum and
Ms. Kemper releases tension that's been brewing since their eyes met.
More than anything, "21 Jump Street", which has the energy and verve of fellow
Sony Pictures buddy-cop genre releases like "Bad Boys" and
Guys", is about unfinished business, payback and revisiting the
yesteryears of life. Schmidt has a fear of rejection that has its roots in
a rhetorical question posed at his own high school prom that makes him feel 21
inches tall. Jenko wishes he could be *that* much smarter. The
latter is advised to stay away from the ladies, while the former wants so much
to be near them so as to reclaim his manhood and recover from a seven-year-old
trauma that still haunts him.
Meanwhile, both cops' inadequacies are masked by their beat-downs of black
drug-dealing suspects and their gleeful bonding over that triumph. The
playful, take-no-prisoners' spirit of "21 Jump Street" is an admirable quality
in itself, going to all the "incorrect" places no recent big-screen American
police comedies or dramas -- other than "48 HRS." and "Q&A", both starring Nick
Nolte as a racist cop -- dare go.
"21 Jump Street" may well break the Guinness Book Of World Records for its sheer
number of penis references, jokes and subliminal phallic images. It's
utter overkill. You wonder why there's such a deep preoccupation with the
penis in a vast majority of American male-directed comedies. Start, for
one, with the film's cheeky poster (below), which telegraphs who has a rock
solid gun and who's lacking their Wheaties in the below-the-belt department.
The film's final 15 minutes are its weakest and most shrill, where goofiness and
any remaining comic intelligence runs completely off the rails, giving way to
gross-outs that "21 Jump Street", a surprisingly good, rollicking and bizarrely
buoyant trip, doesn't deserve.
With: Dave Franco, Brie Larson, Rob Riggle, DeRay Davis,
Caroline Aaron, Johnny
Pemberton, Stanley Wong.
"21 Jump Street" is rated R by the Motion Picture
Association Of America for crude and sexual
content, pervasive language, drug material, teen drinking and some violence. The
film's running time is one hour and 49 minutes.
COPYRIGHT 2012. POPCORNREEL.COM. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.FOLLOW