Mar 7, 2015

Review: 21 Jump Street (2012)

I don't think that anyone really expected 21 Jump Street to be as successful as it ended up being. It's based off nothing more than a fading memory of the late 1980's, dredged up by Columbia Pictures. Despite that, it made over $200 million worldwide at the box office and was received quite positively by critics against all odds. The 21 Jump Street TV series itself originally ran from 1987-1991 over five seasons and it's what gave Johnny Depp his real start in Hollywood.

The success of 21 Jump Street has of course spawned the inevitable sequel and is another feather in the caps of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. I think everyone wants this duo to be directing their comedies these days and it all began with the surprise hit of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. It's also pretty cool to see that Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum executive produced 21 Jump Street with Hill also co-writing the story with screenwriter Michael Bacall.


Genre: action, comedy, crime
Directed by: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
Produced by: Stephen J. Cannell, Neal H. Moritz, Jonah Hill, etc.
Written by: Michael Bacall
Music by: Mark Mothersbaugh
Running time: 109 minutes
Production company: Columbia Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Original Film, etc.
Distributed by: Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Releasing, B&H Film Distribution, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $42,000,000
Box office: $201,585,328 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Brie Larson, Dave Franco, Rob Riggle, DeRay Davis, Ice Cube, Dax Flame, Chris Parnell, Ellie Kemper, Jake Johnson, Nick Offerman, Holly Robinson Peete, Johnny Pemberton, Stanley Wong, Justin Hires, Brett Lapeyrouse, Lindsey Broad, Caroline Aaron



Going through high school, Morton Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Greg Jenko (Channing Tatum) ran in different circles of friends. Schmidt was a typical nerd while Jenko was a star jock. After graduating, both of them enrolled in Police Academy where they discover that their different talents could help one another get through the physical and theoretical examinations. After becoming full-fledged cops and failing miserably in their first arrest attempt, they're given one last chance. They're assigned to go undercover at a high school to uncover the identity of a certain drug supplier.


The biggest reason without a doubt as to why 21 Jump Street works so well is due to the insane chemistry between Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. When they're assigned to go undercover they have to pose as brothers and brothers on-screen they certainly are. In terms of hilarious and awesome film duos in modern times, Hill and Tatum deserve a spot on the list. They play off one another so well and definite credit goes to Michael Bacall for being able to feed them some good lines.

What Michael Bacall's script does surprisingly well is address the fact that most people are going to have pretty low expectations about 21 Jump Street. That's why there's quite a bit of meta-humour that disarmed me personally and let me enjoy the movie as it is. This is a movie that knows it's silly and it never pretends to be anything else. From the bromance between Schmidt and Jenko, to the over-the-top action sequences, 21 Jump Street finds its groove and sticks with it.

In terms of the humour, most of it is a resounding success. I'd put it at around medium-high density in terms of how many jokes there. Some comedies go for the joke-and-a-half a minute route while others are a little more measured in their approach like 21 Jump Street. Still, there are a lot of jokes here and the ones I'm a little less fond of are the sex ones. They're of the more immature variety and they do get a bit grating.

All the same, there are a lot of memorable scenes in 21 Jump Street. The reversal of roles for Schmidt and Jenko in their undercover assignment is brilliant and I also loved how out of their element they both felt when they first arrived to the school. Cool kids actually care about their performances at school now? They care about the environment? What kind of world is this? This is what allows Schmidt to become part of the cool kid gang as Jenko has to get used to hanging out with the other nerds.

The film does lose a bit of energy during the rising action sequence and the climax since most of it is just an extended and loud action scene. Most of the action sequences are in fact a little bit choppy and sloppy. Luckily the comedy mostly masks those deficiencies. Although 21 Jump Street is classified partly as an action movie, it's clearly a much better comedy film

As what's the norm now for comedies, there are quite a few notable actors in 21JS like Brie Larson, Dave Franco, DeRay Davis, Ice Cube and Nick Offerman. Larson's character could've been played by pretty much anyone unfortunately, but Dave Franco is great as the granola cool kid. Personally I've never liked Ice Cube in acting roles before really, but his small role as the angry Captain Dickson grew on me. 

In its own dumbed down way, 21 Jump Street succeeds in making you laugh and making you love Schmidt and Jenko as characters as they try to stumble their way to finding out who the drug supplier at the school is. It's the kind of movie that makes itself immune to criticism with its meta and self-depreciating humour and I don't think anyone could've asked for more. 21 Jump Street is honestly one of the rare times where a sequel is completely warranted.



Related Reviews:

22 Jump Street (2014)

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