They’re Too Old For This Shift
To say this film is based on the late 80’s TV series of the same name would be a little misleading. Granted, the premise is the same but the genre and execution could not be further from the original. I shouldn’t think this will really prompt a massive fan outcry, largely because no one was really petitioning for a 21 Jump Street reboot, but it should still be noted that the two are monumentally different. If anything, this new version takes the original, shoots it through the throat and shouts, “Fuck you, we’re doing it our way!” while tea-bagging the corpse.
Through an incredibly rushed first five minutes, we are introduced to high school students, Schmidt [Hill] and Jenko [Tatum], both of whom suffer their own personal trauma and scarring thanks to school life (as did we all… all! Don’t lie to yourself, it sucked). Several years later, both men enrol in the local police academy and form an odd friendship, despite their obvious differences. Upon graduation they discover that police life isn’t exactly what they had expected; namely riding around on their bicycles, keeping kids off the grass, fetching frisbees, etc. After witnessing a drugs deal by a local gang they actively intervene and make their first arrest, which is quickly thrown out because Jenko failed to read the Miranda Warning – the only part he could remember was “You have the right to remain silent.. you have.. the right to.. to.. to suck my dick, motherfucker!” Subsequently, their Captain transfers them to a revived undercover unit from the 80’s, specifically designed to send youthful police officers into high schools as students and infiltrate drug networks.
Schmidt and Jenko are given new aliases by their new Captain [Ice Cube] and clearly instructed to infiltrate the dealers and identify the supplier, whilst avoiding getting expelled or having any illegal (sexual, alcoholic or drug-related) contact with students or teachers. For Jenko, this is a chance to relive the glory days, whereas Schmidt feels nothing but apprehension for the return to school. On their first day, the two officers discover the status quo has been completely disrupted, the popular kids are now eco-friendly, poetry writing, intellectuals and the nerdy types are actually reckless and immature. A lack of preparation leads to Schmidt and Jenko’s false identities being mixed up but this strangely works out as both men fall in with the exact opposite crowd they were used to socialising with. Describing anything else would literally ruin an amazingly funny and bafflingly heartfelt story, so we’ll just press on to the analysis.
The key factor to this film’s success is the simultaneously predictable and surprisingly inventive nature of the script. Written with an exceptional amount of self-deprecatory, tongue-in-cheek humour, 21 Jump Street serves as an engaging buddy cop bromance as well as a dissection of the absurdity of the entire action genre. Lampooning itself, the film often plays up genre stereotypes to the height of skitish ridicule whilst overtly scolding the film industry for recycling safe, familiar ideas. Of course, the script would be nothing without fine actors to deliver it and the energy and chemistry between Tatum and Hill is genuinely glorious. The supporting roles are equally entertaining, heavily relying on relatively unknown talent and the various cameos and nods to the original series were amusing. Let’s face it, the majority of audience members aren’t going to have a clue who is or isn’t returning from the TV series but the fact that Johnny Depp makes an appearance will be probably cause a stir (at least it did in the screening I attended).
Outside of the hilarity and apt social commentary, the film manages to present itself well on a technical level too. Despite the rushed pacing to begin with, the editing is extraordinarily precise, rarely dragging or skipping over things. The direction is snappy and the visual effects are subtle but the score felt a little lacking, I appreciate it largely relied on contemporary tracks by popular artists but everything outside that was a little paint-by-numbers. Having said that, it probably needed to be in order for the jokes to actually work. So.. never mind, forget I said that. If anything, the level of humour, immaturity and stupidly insightful comments were much in the same styling as South Park and Get Him To The Greek: the majority of audiences may see it as vile, sophomoric nonsense but it is actually an incredibly witty, sincere and gripping story helmed by two fantastic lead performances.
I’ve been desperately racking my brain for some negative elements to balance out this review but if I’m being perfectly honest, I went in with little-to-no expectations and was genuinely surprised by the final product. Any negativity I can imagine surrounding this film will be regarding the humour itself or the complete departure from the TV show. But I enjoyed it. I really enjoyed this film and while it’s not a perfect release and resorted to countless crass developments, it still felt more intelligent and hysterical than the majority of films labelled as ‘comedies’.
16th March 2012
The Scene To Look Out For:
Two scenes for two completely different reasons stood out. First things first, Schmidt and Jenko’s re-introduction to the evolved state of high school cliques and practices was brilliant. As the identities are handed out, their Captain explains that both men will simply fall back into the routines they were subjected to several years ago. Their utter confusion on learning that comics are now considered cool, kids wear their bags with both straps and a whole myriad of other little changes over such a short span of time, really threw any previous plot expectations. Secondly, during a high speed car chase through the city, both cops repeatedly expect certain clichés to unfold: namely things to explode upon contact. The way it’s presented and the utter disorientation from the leads is priceless.
As stated above, the cameos and supporting roles are decent enough but the connection between Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill is breathtakingly good. The dumb jock, nerdy smart kid combo has been visited with varying success over the decades but making something not only entertaining but strangely believable was a real treat. The real surprise came from the fact that despite the typical setup, the relationship between these two men was endearing.
“Don’t bother Korean Jesus! He don’t care about your problems! He’s busy! With Korean shit!”
In A Few Words:
“Sweet, intelligent, funny, action-packed and decently acted are not words I would have thought I would use to describe this film.. but somehow 21 Jump Street manages to incorporate all these and more”