21 Jump Street, based on the TV show of the same name, is the story of Morton Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Greg Jenko (Channing Tatum), two guys who were in the same class in high school, but Morton being a nerd and Greg being a jock, didn’t exactly gel. Now out of high school and both in police academy, they befriend each other, and upon completion, become partners. The pair end up being quite incompetent, and after performing an arrest in which Jenko forgets to read the arrested man his Miranda rights, they are removed from their position and reassigned to a division housed at the titular 21 Jump Street. They are introduced to Captain Dickson (Ice Cube), and learn that their new assignment involves posing as high school students at their former school and trying to bust a drug ring operating there.
Based on the TV show of the same name, 21 Jump Street is much funnier and much better than you’d think it would be. The always fun Jonah Hill does a great job here, and gets a chance to display some of those dramatic chops that helped earn him an Oscar nomination for Moneyball, but the real surprise here, for me, is Channing Tatum. Channing does a terrific job in this movie, has great comedic timing, and makes fun of his apparent jock persona really well, and in good fun. I had no idea the star of such shitty movies as Step Up and G.i. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra could do such a great job. I look forward to seeing more strong, comedic performances from him in the future.
The supporting cast here is also pretty strong. Rob Riggle, known for his small but excellent and funny as fuck bit parts in movies like Step Brothers and The Hangover, is great as P.E. teacher Mr. Walters. The always funny Ellie Kemper is great in her small part as Ms. Griggs, inappropriately hitting on Jenko all the time. Dave “brother of James” Franco (Seth Rogen was once quoted as saying “arguably, the better Franco?”) does a fine job as Eric, the douchey, environmentally conscious, drug-dealing high school student that Schmidt befriends. There’s cameos from two stars of the orignal 21 Jump Street series, Peter DeLuise and Johnny Depp (you may have heard of him) playing their characters from the show. And Ice Cube absolutely kills as Captain Dickson. It’s certainly better seeing him doing this than trash like fucking Are We There Yet?, that’s for sure.
The movie isn’t without some flaws, some of the performances, such as Brie Larson as Molly, do fall flat. The script, while smartly written for the most part, does tend to drag towards the middle. A few of these pacing issues could have been tightened up by shortening scenes dealing with faults in the friendship between Schmidt and Jenko, for example. Not omitting them ouright, just cutting them down. Perhaps a job for the editor? The direction is strong, though, and a chase scene in which Schmidt and Jenko are being chased by a bunch of drug runner on motorcycles and beautifully crafted, and funny to boot.
All in all, a good film which was much funnier than I excpected, and definitely worth checking out. Maybe grab a couple of beers, Dear Reader, get a couple of friends together, and have a good-old belly laugh.
3 1/2 out of 5.