Tatum, Hill make audiences roar in ’21 Jump Street’

By Steffi Porter

MCT
MCT

Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum form an unlikely yet hilarious team in “21 Jump Street,” as two bumbling police officers who go undercover in a local high school in this outrageous comedy inspired by the hit 1980s television drama of the same name.

The film begins with a high school geek, Morton Schmidt (Hill), and a popular jock Greg Jenko (Tatum), reunite on the same police force seven years after graduating. The two are just as different now as they were then. Hill is brilliant, but awkward and insecure while Tatum is strong and confident, though not particularly gifted intellectually.

The two former high school enemies become friends, but after silly mistakes and ridiculous behavior lead to a big-time drug dealer evading arrest, the two are ordered to participate in an undercover investigation, posing as high school students. While working to bust a high school drug dealer and his supplier, the two 20-somethings must deal with the same issues they once faced in high school: popular crowds, difficult classes and tough teachers. This time, Schmidt finds himself among the popular kids and Jenko among the geeks in a high school world that is alarmingly different from the one they once knew.

“21 Jump Street” bears little resemblance to its predecessor – a successful television drama from the 1980s and early ’90s through which Johnny Depp found his fame. That said, the movie successfully stands on its own as a comedy, full of funny lines and absurd situations. Fans of Hill’s earlier comedy, “Superbad,” won’t be disappointed.

The original stars of the television drama, Depp, Peter DeLuise, Holly Robinson Peete and Richard Grieco all make appearances as their characters from the ’80s, an amusing touch for any fans of the TV show in the audience.

However, the movie is certainly not aimed at fans from the original. Though perhaps only two references in the entire movie will go over the heads of those unfamiliar with the TV series, the rest of the movie will surely entertain a whole new generation of “Jump Street” fans.

Alongside the unexpected comedy duo, Brie Larson (“United States of Tara”) is the perfect choice to play the pretty popular girl, Molly Tracey and sort-of love interest of Schmidt. Dave Franco lends youthful charm and amusing foolishness to his character Eric Molson, the school drug dealer. Ice Cube plays the loud, angry, “21 Jump Street” Captain Dickson, whose name was one of the only funny things about his character. His portrayal of Dickson falls short and was not quite on the same level as the others.

Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs) certainly take on a more adult tone with this film, and successfully cast an array of characters that expertly portray stereotypes with a twist.

Down to every last detail, the protagonist pair were believable as their characters. Hill dresses more conservatively in button-down shirts while Tatum dons the uniforms of a jock with muscles to show off.

It was no surprise that Hill has audiences roaring, as just about everything that comes out of his mouth is funny, especially as he attempts to act like a high school student, who is not a far stretch for this bumbling cop character.

Tatum yet again plays an angry, attractive, tough-guy, not unlike his character in “Dear John” (2010), though with a dry, comic edge. He brings a surprising amount of hilarity to his character, down to his spot-on timing, facial expressions and mannerisms.

The movie loses steam in the last quarter with two car chase sequences that could have been half the length they were and twice as good. The graphic violence towards the end appears unnecessary and takes away from the humor of the movie.

The action sequences, though a little long, are filmed excellently. The musical accompaniment keeps the pace moving without over dramatizing.

Though the believability of the two as actual high school students is slim, that only adds to “Jump Street’s” absurdity and complete lack of believability as an actual police-team: and it all worked. No, real cops do not dance and gyrate over a man they’ve just arrested, nor do they fling golf balls out of car windows during car chases, but the lack of believability is fun, and the film is held together by its actors’ exciting performances.

Steffi Porter can be reached at [email protected].