Directors: Phil Lord, Chris Miller
Cast: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Brie Larson, Dave Franco, Ice Cube, Jake Johnson
Synopsis: A reimagining/reboot/re-whatever you want it to be of the popular television series from the 80’s, which at that point starred now A-lister Johnny Depp. This version sees nerd Schmidt (Hill) and jock Jenko (Tatum) bury their high school differences to form a mutually beneficial friendship that sees them both become cops. This friendship is tested when they are sent back to school as undercover agents trying to uncover a drug ring. Though 21 Jump Street was a popular series in my youth, it is one that I never really watched. So this review largely reflects the point of view of someone coming in fresh with no pre-conceptions. So anyone looking for a review rounded out by a level of comparison may be disappointed. This is certainly a general review of general entertainment value, with no reflection on how this compares to early Johnny Depp performances.
This film is quite the enjoyable concoction, but not one that has any lasting impact. I was amused while watching it, but am in no real hurry to see it again. We are set up with an overall ridiculous situation, with two cops being demoted because neither is able to recite the Miranda rights. You then have them on their next mission going under cover in high school, despite neither really looking that youthful. The film does have the good sense to centre some of the humour on highlighting this incongruity, to good effect. There are a number of amusing set pieces throughout, but no real key moments that stand out as a centrepiece gag. There is certainly one very memorable moment, which had little to do with humour, but does provide an effective surprise late in the film.
This fun but forgetful element must largely come from scripting, because both leads are rather delightful in their roles. This is Hill’s best performance since his break out lead performance in Superbad. He ia an extremely likeable loser, even when the script does require him to be a bit of a git. Even in these moments, Hill walks that fine line of portraying a sympathetic character who just makes a few mistakes. The usually wooden Tatum is also not too bad, and it would seem that comedy without the rom- prefix) is a good fit for him. He should look at this as a career option more often.
Despite the strength of these performances, and some good reflective elements to the story, I did watch the film a few nights ago and struggle to remember much specific about it. I guess what I am saying is that the film is not brilliant, but it doesn’t suck at all either. It is comfortably “meh”.
3 stars out of 5