Admittedly, I know very little about the ’80s craze that is 21 Jump Street. I was only around for the ending part of the era but know of the series through popular culture. This is a fact I felt little remorse for in the modern film version of the series. I did not need to know much because it was all explained well, though stupidly, in the film. A group of younger agents of the law are sent into a high school undercover to apprehend the culprit of a new drug that recently caused the death of a local teenager.
Not a hard concept to get your head around but I have a feeling that was the point as most of the film is simply (and literally) making fun of itself. The idea of reminding people of their youth in cinema is not a new one. Most of these missions of re-initiating a character or series into today’s culture crash, burn and fade so quickly, it’s hard to even keep track. I can’t say 21 Jump Street is much different but I can say it’s a step in the right direction.
Almost every single time someone wants to make a quick buck in the film industry, it seems they pick from their old VHS collection by blindfolding themselves and pointing at a random title. Somehow they get enough funding to procure young, popular talent to reprise the characters and they all begin their descent into regret quite quickly. Every once in a while though, the actors see the trap they are walking into and prepare themselves accordingly. Jonah Hill seemed to see the possible outcome of his career after doing this sort of movie and took it as a challenge; a challenge to make a terrible idea into a hilarious disaster movie.
Hill plays Officer Schmidt who is roped into helping his old high school bully through the academy with his adept book-reading skills. The bully, or Officer Jenko (played by Channing Tatum), just isn’t too bright and needs all the help he can get. Of course, what always happens when an old school bully hits you up for academic help in your adult life? Naturally, you become best friends. So when they both show their stupidity on a bust they jointly make, they’re forced to relocate to a new division or face the unemployment line. They make the smart choice and join up with a group of officers who are tasked with going undercover as students because of how young they look. I’ve never seen a high school student as tall and as ripped as Channing Tatum but I know how yoked up kids are today (right?).
This is also the first movie we get to see Jonah Hill in after losing all that weight. I hate to be the guy that boos at a healthy change in someone’s life, but Jonah will always be funnier as a fat guy. Like I said, he is the majority of the reason this movie is remotely watchable but he’s still funnier as the overweight weird kid in 40-Year-Old Virgin, and he only had like three lines in that movie.
Fortunately, the movie was chalk full of drop-dead hilarious outtakes and one liners. The dynamic between Hill and Tatum made me see a new future for oddly paired buddy cop movies. It had some surprising cast members who served as weapons of irony and some Easter eggs that made me feel smart for catching them. Not to mention appearances from actors you did, and did not want to see.
I started out watching the movie with my pouty face on and my arms crossed but ended up being pleasantly surprised. While this one had no point and no moral compass, I couldn’t help but laugh my ass off the entire time. I’m just not sure I was laughing with it, or at it so beware and watch at your own risk. I’ll give this movie 3 out of 5 Nerdskulls but they better not make a sequel.