21 Jump Street (2012)
“The only thing getting blown tonight is their cover.”
Director: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
Cast: Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Ice Cube
Synopsis: A pair of underachieving cops are sent back to a local high school to blend in and bring down a synthetic drug ring.
Man, you know you’re getting old when they make a movie version of an old TV show for teens which was a hit when you were approaching your 30s. I don’t know whether 21 Jump Street was even screened in the UK, but if it was it passed me by. A pre-stardom Johnny Depp was in it, and he makes a comically ironic cameo appearance in the movie, which is presumably littered with references to the show.
Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill play Jenko and Schmidt, a couple of cops who are assigned to 21 Jump Street, a task force of youthful looking cops who go undercover in schools to solve youth crimes. These two were enemies during their own school days with Jenko being the cool but dim long-haired rebel to Schmidt’s conscientious nerd, but became friends while helping each other through police academy. The prospect of two grown men returning to their high school years is one filled with potential, even if the demands of their age means the movie can only contrast modern day trends with those of seven years before. No doubt, teen culture is constantly evolving and re-inventing itself, but there’s only so much change any culture can undergo in such a short space of time. This means that 21 Jump Street only occasionally dips its toe into fish out of water territory.
Jenko is dismayed to find that what was considered cool back in his day is now considered outdated by the next generation of teens so that he is no longer one of the cool kids, while Schmidt’s more sensitive and caring nature means that the one-time outcast is now on the verge of gaining entry to the upper echelons of High School society. This situation is compounded by the fact that they accidentally swap their undercover identities so that the unfit introvert Schmidt must do track and field as well as drama while the slightly dense Jenko must take Chemistry lessons.
The duo’s mission is to find out who is manufacturing and selling a new drug which has potentially fatal side effects, and it’s not long before they discover that Eric Molson (Dave Franco), one of the coolest kids in the school is pushing the drug for a mystery dealer. As Jenko has become irredeemably tarred with the nerdy label, it’s up to Schmidt to infiltrate Eric’s gang and win his trust.
Like a lot of comedies these days, most of 21 Jump Street’s funniest moments occur in the opening twenty minutes. The humour becomes increasingly strained after that, and while fans of the original series might get a kick out of spotting references to it, anyone with no knowledge of the show will be left with the feeling that things are dragging on a little too long. Jonah Hill handles the material like a pro, and shows why Tatum, who looks the part physically, should steer clear of comedies, even when he’s essentially playing the straight man. Johnny Depp’s much-touted cameo is a rare funny moment near the end of a movie which ultimately descends to the level of gross-out comedy with a character attempting to pick up his severed penis with his mouth. Nice.