Tuesday, 24 April 2012

21 Jump Street (2012)

Image: Sony Pictures

After the disappointment that was The Sitter, we weren’t exactly itching to get out there and watch another Jonah Hill comedy. Especially one that was based on a TV show that we’ve never seen and co-starring Channing Tatum, who had yet to show any comic aptitude at all. So imagine our surprise when 21 Jump Street turned out to be really very funny indeed.

Rookie cops Schmidt (Hill) and Jenko (Tatum) are sent on an undercover mission to infiltrate a high school drug ring. But the nerdy Schmidt suddenly finds himself in the cool clique, while dumb jock Jenko finds himself an outcast with the science nerds. Can their newfound friendship survive high school a second time?

First of all, let’s talk about Hill and Tatum. Their chemistry together is superb and the balance of their friendship is played beautifully. Hill’s character is more awkward and less abrasive than his characters in films such as Superbad, and Schmidt’s excitement at being friends with Jenko is touchingly reciprocated when Jenko realises that life after high school is not easy for someone who never bothered to study. Tatum riffs on the dumb jock persona he’s built up beautifully, displaying real comedic chops and willingness to look stupid. A lot of the comedy comes out of the fact that they’re both as awkward and easily hurt as each other, with Schmidt finally getting to be cool and Jenko finding out how painful it is to be shunned.

Character analysis aside, it’s really very funny. The return to high school is given a nice twist, with the cool kids all about recycling, getting into a good college, and driving hybrid cars. Brie Larson (Scott Pilgrim, Rampart) gives another great performance as Schmidt’s love interest Molly, a role which allows her to play both charming and wise-cracking as well as getting to have a truly impressive freak-out. Then you’ve got Ice Cube as the angry black captain who embraces his stereotype, Rob Riggle (Step Brothers) as the blow-hard gym teacher, Dave Franco (Fright Night) as the laconic cool kid drug dealer, Ellie Kemper (Bridesmaids) as the science teacher lusting after Jenko, and a cameo from the master of deadpan Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation), who gets the best remake joke.

Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller make an impressive live-action debut after the animated Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. They handle the comedy, the action, and some pretty inspired hallucination sequences with great skill. There’s not a lot more to say about the film, really, except to reiterate what a pleasant surprise it is. They’ve taken an old TV show and turned it into a hilarious comedy about friendship and high school. And Channing Tatum? Who knew?

It’s genuinely funny, and Tatum is hilarious.

4/5

JH

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