What could have easily been a superficial comedy wound up being not only hilarious but also kind of heart-warming in its own way. 21 Jump Street is based off the television show of the same name that ran from the late 80s to early 90s which starred Johnny Depp, Peter Deluise, Richard Grieco and Holly Robinson Pete. The movie version lets you know right away that it knows it is recycling something that was popular back in the day but it goes beyond it to create something that feels fresh and fun.
One of the movie’s greatest strengths is the pairing of Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill. Tatum is someone that I’ve typically avoided up until recently. I didn’t really care for the guy all that much as an actor but in 21 Jump Street I found him incredibly likable and very funny. Jonah Hill is equally up to the task of bringing the laughs and they both play off each other really well. What I didn’t expect from the film was a theme of genuine friendship and brotherly love. The two characters are polar opposites of each other but manage to find a real bond with one another and you become invested in their friendship. It’s that investment and the two actors’ chemistry that really helps the movie excel at being great entertainment.
The supporting cast for 21 Jump Street are all pretty good as well. I don’t think Ice Cube has been this funny since.. ever. He plays Tatum and Hill’s superior officer and has some genuinely funny moments sprinkled throughout the film. Rob Riggle can sometimes feel one note in his performances but I enjoyed him as the gym teacher in the movie. His craziness works with the personality of the film. Dave Franco (James Franco’s little brother) plays a popular high school kid and has some fun moments in the movie. Brie Larson (who played Envy Adams in Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World) is in the role of the love interest for Hill’s character, despite being in high school (though it’s safe to assume she’s 18). Larson, who is in actuality 23, plays her role with a bit of snark and charm that makes her quite likable. Nick Offerman (aka Ron Swanson) and Chris Parnell both have small roles but are both really funny in their parts. Fans of the original 21 Jump Street will be happy to know that there are some cameos from the old cast, two of which are used to great effect.
The script by Michael Bacall (co-writer of Scott Pilgrim) is another of the film’s strengths. There are quite a few gags and lines in the movie that are really well thought out. In fact, there is a sequence regarding Tatum and Hill being forced to take a drug while at school that is highly entertaining but also reminded me a little of some of the sequences in Scott Pilgrim in terms of how it was done visually. There is also a really great gag in the movie involving flammable items/explosions that was utterly hilarious. I wish I could go into detail but there is no way I’d want to ruin it for anyone so you’ll just have to see it instead. The script doesn’t really set any rules for the world the characters exist in. Often times the two guys do things that would provoke serious consequences but everything just keeps on going without repercussions. It’s not necessarily a bad thing though as I think the film is meant to exist in it’s own little world where certain things can happen and we don’t have to stop to reflect on whether or not these guys would be immediately fired or thrown in jail. The movie just goes with the flow and you’re so invested in the ride that you don’t want to stop to think about it.
So far this year, comedy has been off to a rather good start. We recently were treated to David Wain’s awesome Wanderlust (which you can read my review here) and now we have another great comedy entry in 21 Jump Street. I laughed a hell of a lot in the film and I can’t wait until this hits blu-ray so I can pick it up and watch it again. I could see a sequel happening, this film definitely sets up the premise for another installment, but I’d only want to see it if it’s not a rehash of this film (I’m looking at you Hangover 2). I could see them poking fun at the cliches of what to expect in a sequel and being successful at it but I think that this group of cast and crew would benefit more from making another film together but perhaps try a different brand or subject matter, much like what Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost did with Shaun of the Dead and Hott Fuzz. They are not direct sequels but sequels in spirit. Regardless, if 21 Jump Street 2 were to happen, I’d happily be there opening day. 21 Jump Street is among some of the best comedies produced in the last couple years and you’d be doing yourself a huge favor in going to see it. So put on your best white tuxedo and head to the theater.. right now.