Reaching the Right Address

21 Jump Street (March 16, 2012)    4/5

Directed by Phil Lord & Chris Miller (Columbia Pictures)

Is 21 Jump Street the most pleasant surprise of the year so far? No doubt in my mind. Spoofing and paying homage to the late 80s TV series in equal dosage, Jonah Hill (who shares story credit with screenwriter Michael Bacall) and not-quite-teen-heart-throb Channing Tatum, play Schmidt and Jenko, former classmates who are forced to relive the glory days, their police department re-assigning them to work undercover as high school students, in an attempt to uncover a local drug ring.

But here’s the thing – Schmidt, who was the dork in high school, and Jenko, who was the dunderhead jock, now have the opportunity to reverse their social stature. You see, high school has changed since 2005. For instance, being environmental conscious is now cool, organized sports are a drag, people two-strap the backpack, and God forbid – trying is actually a positive.

With this intelligent design comes some of the biggest laughs I’ve chortled in quite a few years, brought forth by a zany structure that ignores convention, and is completely self-reflexive about not only the genre, but what the film actually wants to be. Moments of insanity are offered that will seemingly descend into formula, just to prove the audience wrong as the craziness continues. I won’t even think of ruining a few surprise role choices and cameos.

Surprisingly enough, 21 Jump Street is as much about penis jokes as it is about character development, visual storytelling, and the modern application of those great American high school stereotypes. Hill is one of the finest comedic actors in Hollywood today, and kudos to the filmmakers for giving Tatum an equally hefty portion of the funny stuff. Their partnership is gold. The film itself is a terrific blend of nostalgia and modern-day raunch, challenging us to lend it the meaning it deserves.

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1 Comment

  1. I’m glad someone else appreciated this movie as much as I did.


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