Review: 21 Jump Street (2012)

When best friends Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) realise that they’re out of their policing depth even as park officers, the former high-school enemies are assigned to a newly revived undercover division on 21 Jump Street, spearheaded by Captain Dickson (Ice Cube).  The death of a careless teenager, Billiam (Johnny Simmons), reveals the spread of a new drug at the local school, prompting Schmidt and Jenko back to class as “teenagers”, to infiltrate and put an end to the drug ring before anyone else is hurt.

Taking its name and supposedly many of the sensibilities from the cult 1980’s TV series, 21 Jump Street is every bit as hysterical, crude, action-packed and self-referential as you were praying it would be. Unlike less-than-successful films of its ilk, this one doesn’t rely on cheap tricks to evoke laughs from its audience. In fact, what Michael Bacall has done with commendable skill and attention to detail is craft a well-layered narrative where, if the antics were removed, a kosher film would remain, albeit one with a slightly less savoury taste.

While the on-form screenplay, exuberant direction from live-action newbies Phil Lord and Chris Miller, and the added layers (a romantic sub-plot between Schmidt and Molly, played by Brie Larson, is surprisingly sweet) are thoroughly engaging in their own right, it’s the unlikely relationship between Schmidt and Jenko that allows 21 Jump Street to hit new levels and achieve a rarity: a blend between comedy and drama that’s truthful to life without ever overstepping its mark as pure entertainment. Through their insecurities and deficiencies, they band together, but as the trials and tribulations of high school ensnare them once more, their true colours start to shine.

This wouldn’t be possible without the unlikely, yet inspired partnership of Hill and Tatum. After a few rocky rom-coms, Tatum lands firmly on his feet, proving his comic chops with one-liner after one-liner, all administered with a perfect timing. Hill, also, embodies his on-screen persona with a natural ease, finding the accurate balance between explosiveness and genuine emotion. Even the supporting cast is uniformly brilliant, with Ellie Kemper and Dave Franco, in particular, delivering noteworthy turns as their respective characters. That’s a relief, as when minor cracks in the narrative do show (the third act is too excessive as everything comes to a head), the inconsistencies are masked by one casting directors decisions.

21 Jump Street truly is a zany experience, but one worth having. If you’re not laughing hard at the frenzied acid trips or impeccable comic timing, then you’ll certainly be charmed and surprised by the it-shouldn’t-work-but-somehow-it-does partnership of Tatum and Hill. If there’s a comedy worth venturing out for and paying extortionate amounts of money to see, then it’s this skilfully executed one.

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47 thoughts on “Review: 21 Jump Street (2012)”

  1. Hill and Tatum are great together here and add a lot to this film’s comedy but it’s just the way it is all written that makes it even richer. It’s making fun of those high school comedy conventions but at the same time, is inventing it’s own as it goes on. Great review. Give mine a look when you can.

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    1. I was surprised by just how well they work together. They’re not a partnership that you’d immediately think of, but maybe that’s why it worked so well. I’ll be sure to check your review at once I get a chance!

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  2. I’m TRULY looking forward to this flick — especially after reading your review. I love parody-styled adaptations, and especially those that are aimed squarely at something as foundational to my early years as 21 Jump Street. LOVE IT!

    🙂

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    1. I’ve watched it and it’s really funny. At first I wasn’t sure because so many movies are about going back to high school so they can relive their ‘glory days’ but this one was not what I expected.

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  3. I’ve been wanting to see this film as a fan of both Hill and Tatum, and I’m glad the film is getting such positive reviews. The actors were amazing on SNL, so I’m looking forward to seeing what they’re able to do together.

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      1. Yours is the only review I’ve read, actually. It might’ve been in Entertainment Weekly, but I was so busy preparing for finals that I just let them sit there and finally just recycled them. So if any of those had a review, I missed it.

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  4. Great review. I was hesitant to see this because Channing Tatum hasn’t really impressed me with his delivery in the past. But your opinion that he aces his one-liners helps alleviate my fears a bit. (And I love anything involving Jonah Hill.) Thanks for the insight!

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  5. Reblogged this on Tanya Ayala and commented:
    I saw this movie with a friend on the weekend and I was surprised by how refreshingly funny it was. The on-screen chemistry between Hill and Tatum was comically perfect!

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  6. Great write up! I definitely want to see it. I am old enought to remeber watching the original series… I am glad thay have made the film into a more of a comedy. Besides Jonah Hill is one of my favourite actors…;o)

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  7. Your review was incredible and spot on! I loved this film when I saw it last night and your writing is immaculate.

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  8. Im skeptical… I grew up with JOhnny Depp and Holly Robinson Pete on the original and just dont know if this could stand up to it… although I’m a fan of Jonah Hill and even bigger fan of Channing Tatum… but I just wasnt sure….. that is, until I read this! I want to do the single date thing and just go see it all by myself, like I do so many other movies… SHHH dont tell anyone, dont wanna sound like a dorky loner, lol. Thanks for this!

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  9. Excellent! Though at first terribly apprehensive, the trailers and all for this movie gave me some hope and indication that it was more than just standard churned out hollywood dreck and its great to hear that they’ve really had a good time and made a good film at the end of it all.
    Gotta say, its weird seeing a thinner Hill though! 🙂
    Cheers!

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  10. Nice review, and congrats on the freshly pressed! I really enjoyed this one, small touches like the backpack straps and Korean Jesus had me in stitches. Thought it ran out of steam a little towards the end when the ‘buddy cop movie’ boxes were being ticked. Still awesome though.

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  11. Hm… maybe I’ll actually have to go see this movie. i have to say, from the previews I’ve been thinking it looks pretty dumb… but your review has convinced me to give it a chance. Plus both of the actors did so well on SNL…

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  12. hmm… never been a fan of channing tatum.. I don’t think he has the chops for comedy.. But on the other hand, Jonah Hill never fail to amuse me.

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  13. “Ap Chemistry, bitch!”

    Great movie. Not sure why people are surprised by Tatum’s talents to be funny – seems like a natural at it. Would love to see these two buddy up again!

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  14. Just saw this movie and LOVED it. Laughed the entire time. Not just giggled, but I’m talking about knee slapping, snort filled laughter. Could not have been more pleased with the humor and surprisingly touching relationship between Hill and Tatum. Thanks for posting!

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  15. Saw it over the weekend and thought it was hilarious! I thought Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill did a great job as partners and the other actors played their roles well… Def worth seeing!

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