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21 Jump Street (2012)

April 6, 2012

7/10 Gym Class Heroes

No one asked for it, but still a good time.

21 Jump Street is about two kids in high school: one of ’em’s a brain, one of ’em’s a jock, and neither get along. Fast forward, they graduate, they sign up for the police academy, and eventually become best buds as they help each other out through training. Lo and behold, they get their badges, become bicycle cops, and then get transferred after dry-humping a perp’s forehead and forgetting how to read him his Miranda rights. Where do they get transferred to? Why, 21 Jump Street of course! Their new assignment: go undercover as new students at a local high school, find out who’s supplying the kids with drugs, and take that sucker out. Sounds easy enough, but as they soon find out, high school just ain’t what it used to be!

That last sentence? Probably the corniest thing I’ve ever written. But by the same token, that’s the kind of story we’re dealing with. It’s another remake of another TV show that everyone all but forgot about and I’ve never even seen, and it’s existence was inevitable. If Michael Bay’s Teenage Alien Ninja Turtles is any indication, nothing is sacred anymore. But with that out of the way and this in the can, it’s still a lot better than what we’re used to.

Like every other adaptation from The Smurfs to The Three Stooges, Jump Street‘s approach is to take characters we’re familiar with, throw them into our present-day world, and hope to God that hilarity ensues. Every once in a while, this strategy actually works and you get a Brady Bunch Movie to enjoy. But more of often than not, you get three Alvin & the Chipmunks movies to make you instantly forget how much you liked the show in the first place. What sets the Bradys apart from the Squeakquels is that there’s more to the former than simply shitting all over “Single Ladies” along with what’s left of our childhood memories. Since the Bradys were all about family values that had been lost over the course of four decades, not only did it make sense to transport them to the ’90s, but it was a great way to make fun of the ‘70s in the process. While Jump Street doesn’t carry that same kind of pertinence, it’s still a great way to make fun of kids today and the pecking order of high school in general.

Sounds pretty shticky from the outset and at this point there’s only so much that can added to the going-back-to-high-school formula, but what helps is that it’s self-aware. When our rookies get transferred, their commanding officer makes a point to address how re-hashed and overdone their strategy is but that they’re doing it anyway because people keep buying into it. I guess you gotta address the obvious if you want to keep the eye-rolling to a minimum, but since there are enough movies out there that don’t even bother, points shall be granted.

Actually, now that I think about it, it’s the exact same premise as when Billy Madison went back to high school. Channing Tatum rolls up in his police-issue a muscle car, gets outcasted from the start for his carbon footprint, and nearly gets expelled for starting a fight. Once upon a time, that was the surefire way to get a letterman jacket on day one, but now tolerance has replaced being a dick as the easiest way to climb the social ladder. Even though that Billy Madison epiphany kind of just warped my whole view of the movie, it still makes for some inspired, true-to-life scenes that fuel some surprisingly genuine character development along the way.

But more than anything, the biggest reason it’s funny is because the people involved are funny. There are a crap-ton of cameos that keep tagging in and out, Jonah Hill’s very funny as usual, and then there’s Channing Tatum. You know what, I take it back: the biggest reason this movie is funny is ’cause Channing Tatum is involved.

Channing-fuckin’-Tatum, man. It’s a good thing this guy’s a goddamn Abercrombie door-greeter because he has been striking out looking for-freakin’-ever. He was in a movie called Fighting for Chrissakes. FIGHTING! I mean, it’s not like the guy’s hurting for work or anything, but his career thus far has placed a much greater emphasis on quantity over quality. And it’s not like he’s a bad actor, he’s just been getting typecast like a mofo in some really bad movies. So here is once again as our leading man, only this time the movie’s good, and just like that, Channing Tatum blossoms into the breakdancing ex-stripper of a butterfly that he was destined to be!

Physically, he’s a perfect fit as the pea-brained Prom King-turned-pea-brained cop, but wouldn’t ya’ know, he’s got some comedic chops going for him, too. He has great chemistry with Hill, he totally holds his own when it comes to laughs, and after all the shit he’s had to act through, it’s really just nice to see him hit a dinger for once. Easy guy to root for, so here’s to hoping he sticks with the comedies and doesn’t fall out with Soderbergh any time soon.

As for the others, Rob Riggle’s got some memorable lines as the school gym coach, Dave “Holy-CRAP-He-Looks-Like-His-Brother” Franco is solid as the school’s eco-friendly pusher, and while it’s great to see Ice Cube swearing again instead of letting his kids make his career choices, I still feel like he was miscast as the commanding officer at 21 Jump Street. Could have been made for one of the best roles in the movie, something like Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder, but at the end of the day, it’s Ice Cube doing Ice Cube. Not the worst thing in the world, just could have been the best thing in the world.

All the same, the general rule of thumb these days is that if it’s a remake, it’s probably gonna suck ass. The very fact that 21 Jump Street doesn’t cannonball into a landmine of disappointment the way so many others have is more than enough to recommend it. There are hangups to be had, but they’ve all got their silver lining. The plot’s predictable as hell, but I was too invested in the characters to care. There’s a bunch of old gags from psychedelic drug trips to random explosions, but since I was laughing out loud at every one of ’em, it’s kind of a moot point. The action didn’t do much for me either, but there isn’t much of it to go around, not like Pineapple Express at least.

Look, I had fun and it sounded like everyone else in the theater did too. It ain’t breaking the mold and it ain’t quantum physics either, but the laughs were a-flowin’ and that’s what matters. Who am I kidding, I almost gave this an 8.

You go, Channing Tatum.

13 Comments leave one →
  1. April 6, 2012 1:50 am

    I really want to see this movie now. I was expecting it to be a dumb movie, but it would seem I am wrong about that.

    • April 6, 2012 9:52 am

      It’s not the smartest comedy out there, but it ain’t dumb either. Check it out, man! Good stuff.

  2. April 6, 2012 3:48 pm

    I really expected not to like this movie and only went because my 13 year old wanted to see it. I laughed so much I surprised myself. While its not going to win any awards it was good for an afternoon of laughter and I loved the cameos!

    • April 16, 2012 1:43 pm

      Haha. Sounds like a lot of people have been getting dragged to this one. Like you said, good for what it is, and what it is is funny.

  3. April 7, 2012 12:34 am

    I refused to go until my little brother dragged me to see it where I shocked to laugh so heartily. It’s not perfect but I think it’s the comedy to beat this year.

  4. April 10, 2012 12:47 am

    I thought it was brilliant. Had no business being attached to the “21 Jump Street” name but maybe that’s part of the fun. Maybe future spoofs will be reimaginings so vast as to have nothing but the name in common.

    • April 16, 2012 1:45 pm

      Hahaha. I never watched the show so I have no base of comparison, but yeah, something tells me this is pretty different in tone. Whatever though, if it works, I’m all for it. So much better than most of the TV adaptations we’re used to getting.

  5. April 10, 2012 11:21 pm

    I just started following your blog and I have to say it is pretty cool. Love the way you infuse humor into your reviews. Could you follow my new blog, Roxygetsreal? It’d help out a lot in getting me some “street cred.”

    • April 16, 2012 1:46 pm

      Thanks! Much appreciated.

      And I have followed, no promises on the street cred though, my powers are limited.

  6. May 9, 2012 11:40 am

    this was fun indeed, and yes, i am in love with channing tatum.

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