Wednesday 21 March 2012

21 JUMP STREET review

Failing at their jobs as bicycle cops, Schmidt and Jenko (Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum) get assigned to an undercover mission at a local high school. Whilst trying to pass for students, they must infiltrate a drug gang operating from within the school, all the while making sure that they don't cause any trouble, take any drugs or sleep with any of the teachers.

Based on the 80's TV show that's only really remembered nowadays as the launch-pad for Johnny Depp's career, 21 Jump Street is the perfect property to be given the remake treatment. Hardly fondly remembered, it still had a killer premise that was just begging for an update. And so the project has fallen into the hands of young Mr Jonah Hill, looking for a new vehicle for his more streamlined physique and the comedy stylings of his friend, the star of GI Joe, Channing Tatum.

Jonah Hill, brought on board as star, producer and story writer (along with Project X's Michael Bacall), obviously believes in making this project one of the funniest things he's ever done. Why else would he agree to the use of the most embarrassing childhood photo I've ever seen? It's disarmingly unflattering in a way that makes you warm to this pair of cops, who despite a lot of good will, are really bad at their jobs. Given the chance to prove themselves by reliving their high school experiences, neither could realistically pass for a teenager, but little problems like that are soon forgotten once they arrive at the school and start trying to blend in by accidentally assaulting the gay, black kid. This isn't your typical high school movie.

Chris Miller and Phil Lord, the directors of the excellent and criminally unseen animated film Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, have made the switch to live action with ease by following their strengths and playing up the cartoony elements of the film. When Schmidt and Jenko take the drug that's getting sold through the school, what follows is a brilliant account of the rest of their day, the different stages of the drug experience told like it's an 8 bit computer game progressing to the next level. As an action movie, it's playful towards the genre's conventions. During the film's excellent stop/start car chase, a tanker filled with 'Oil and Fuel" gets riddled with bullets, yet it's the lack of explosion that provides the entertainment.

For those who've seen Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, I'm sure you'll agree that Chris Miller and Phil Lord are the new kings of the comedy montage. Edgar Wright via Saturday Night Live, they're able to cap every crash-zooming, quick cutting montage with a wryly funny punchline. Jonah Hill's stamp is all over the film too; a house party turns into the most anarchic this side of Superbad, and there's those moments of uncomfortable male bonding that Hill is so good at delivering.

The biggest surprise from the film (other than Jonah Hill's dramatic weight loss) is Channing Tatum's excellent turn as the jock turned science nerd Jenko. Tatum is a surprisingly good comic actor, more than holding his own opposite the chatterbox ways of Hill. Seriously, he should stick to comedy from now on, as this is the best he's ever been in anything.

All the better for realising it's the latest in a long line of 80's rehashes, it also stands out as one of the best. Goofy, childish and absolutely awesome, 21 Jump Street features the best comedy police work since Hot Fuzz. Yeah, Cop Out, I said it.


1 comment:

  1. Spot on as usual. The cameo at the end made it for me!