They say that High School days are meant to be the best days of our lives, but not a moment goes by when we don’t look back and wish we they could be relived as better looking, cooler and more popular versions of ourselves. 21 Jump Street, directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, does us the favour of serving up a nice slice of nostalgia in this hilarious action comedy.
Adapted from the classic 1980’s American TV drama Series, 21 Jump Street has a lot to live up to. Starring Superbad‘s Jonah Hill, who is recently recovering from the comedy disaster that was The Sitter, and Channing Tatum, who has been busy romancing Rachel McAdams in some slushy romance movies lately, the unlikely pair team up to replace Johnny Depp and co. as undercover police offers infiltrating a high school drug ring.
Former misfit Schmidt (Hill), the guy who never got a date to the prom, enrols in the local police academy only to find that his high school bully and resident dumb-jock, Greg Jenko is his new colleague. After realising that their strengths can help each other, they graduate as friends and become partners. Unfortunately, being a cop isn’t as exciting as they had hoped and they find themselves patrolling parks on bicycles.
It isn’t until they make a major screw up in an attempt to bust a gang of drug dealers that they are relocated to 21 Jump Street, a special undercover unit where young looking officers are sent to high schools to investigate youth crime. Scene-stealing Captain Dickson, played here by Ice Cube, explains that there is a new experimental drug and that the duo must find out who is the supplier. However, under new identities, Schmidt and Jenko find that high school is a very different place and that the roles of the ‘cool kids’ have been reversed.
Surprisingly, 21 Jump Street is full of laugh-out-loud hilarity in a way that the trailer just doesn’t do justice. From subtle references, memorable quotes, outrageous drug-addled hallucinations and a helluva lot of cussing, the entire movie captures that John Hughes-feel met with Judd Apatow’s gross-out style. Dave Franco amuses by channelling his famous siblings’ Daniel Dessario role as Eric, the most popular kid in school, whilst the comical Mr. Walter’s (Saturday Night Live’s Rob Riggle) provides that same terrifying gym teacher shtick that made us all want to skip afternoon P.E..
Written by Michael Bacall, the comedy lies in Tatum’s relegation to being one of the geeks whilst Hill laps it up as one of the cool kids, trying to woo the pretty Molly (Brie Larson) and occasionally referring to his ‘faux brother’ as Rain Man. The two cops use their wits to solve the case yet somehow they get sidetracked by wild parties, prom night and chemistry classes. Without sounding lame, the best moments are those when the teens begin ingesting the mysterious narcotics (keep an eye out for an appearance by Scott Pilgrim Vs The World‘s Johnny Simmonds), coupled with Tatum’s frustration at his new-found ‘loser’ status; ‘I blame Glee, fuck Glee!’
Hill and Tatum are an odd-pairing but somehow it works. Whilst Hill reprises his usual quick wit gags, Tatum is pleasantly charming and un-serious. There is literally not a love interest nor a gratuitous ‘six-pack’ shot in sight!
Chaotic and at-times farfetched, 21 Jump Street may not be to everyone’s taste, but for those who have left high school in the past ten years and wonder what the heck is going on with kids these days, this movie is probably going to be one of the funniest you’ll see this year. The improv dialogue and downright weird moments (Jonah Hill praying to a Korean Jesus and the bizarre photos in his parents’ house which make it look like he ‘died in a car crash’) all provoke that silly, immature sense of humour which awakens each time one watches American Pie or Anchorman. The unexpected celebrity cameo’s are also a plus, being the best kept secret since Bill Murray’s appearance in Zombieland and the ending leaves 21 Jump Street open for an inevitable sequel.
Best character: Korean Jesus
Best quote: Doves make you look badass!
Best scene: Schmidt and Jenko are forced to take one of the experimental drugs.
Watch this if you liked: Police Academy, The Other Guys, Hot Fuzz, Step Brothers, Old School, Superbad.