By Brian Hall
“21 Jump Street” may bear the same name and premise as the Johnny Depp starring teen drama from the late 1980’s, but that would be where the similarities end. The good news is, in spite of this essentially being a “Jump Street” film in name only, most people looking for a fun, R rated buddy/cop comedy are going to find a lot to like here.
The film starts with Schmidt and Jenko, (Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum respectively) as high school rivals – Schmidt a nerdy loner and Jenko the jock who bullies him. Once they both coincidentally join and suffer at a police academy years later however, they realize that sharing each others unique talents could benefit them both and they become convincing best buds along the way. After a botched arrest once they’re on the force, the two are made to join a program where they will go undercover, posing as high school students, to uncover the source of a new drug that students have been taking before it starts infiltrating other schools.
What makes this movie work first and foremost is that Hill and Tatum’s odd couple friendship is not only believable but also fun to watch. Some entertaining ideas are also explored when the guys find themselves having to fraternize with the students who are on the opposite end of the social spectrum than they are familiar with – Hill having to find a way to mingle with the cool kids and Tatum trying to fraternize with nerdy chemistry students.
Tatum shows off a surprising command of his comedic strengths and they compliment Hill’s loose, improvisational style nicely. There are also several funny riffs on action film beats involving bullets hitting gas tanker trucks and how walking past flying doves can make any person look cool.
So while “Jump Street” may not be the cinematic translation fans of the series had been hoping for, at least we’ve been given a genuinely funny action outing to enjoy.
“21 Jump Street” is currently playing in theaters.