Every once in a very long time the filmmakers turn out a really stupid comedy that is actually funny in places. And even more rarely they do this without resorting to what often is disgusting scatological humor or truly tasteless sex jokes. With the exception of just one vomit-inducting moment near its end, “21 Jump Street” is such a film.
The movie takes its name and basic premise from a television series that ran on Fox from 1987 to 1991. The star of the program was the incomparable Johnny Depp, and its stories featured young police officers who dealt with such problems as alcoholism, drug addiction, hate crimes, homophobia, AIDS, child abuse, and sexual promiscuity. Originally a public service announcement about the show’s particular topic followed the broadcast.
But you won’t find a public service announcement after this raunchily humorous movie starring Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. The story begins in 2005, when the nerdish Schmidt (Hill) and the jockish Jenko (Tatum) are in high school. Jenko looks on in amusement at Schmidt’s pathetic attempt of asking a hot girl to the upcoming prom. A few moments later, Jenko is summoned t the principal’s office, where he is told that he won’t be allowed to go to the prom because of his poor showing in the classroom.
Now we move ahead to 2012 and find our two heroes as members of the new class at the Police Academy. Although the two of them never liked each other in high school, they soon learn that they can help each other get through police training. Schmidt can provide Jenko with aid in the intellectual area, and Jenko can help Schmidt over the physical humps in their schooling. When the two are finally graduated, they have high hopes of driving around in a flashy police cruiser, but their lofty aspirations are dashed when they find themselves relegated to the bicycle patrol.
After handling a few menial tasks like fishing a Frisbee out of a lake for some youngsters, they get their big chance to make a real arrest when they come across some bikers smoking pot in the park. But they have to let them go because they can’t remember the words to the Miranda rights. Because of their botched arrest attempt, they are send to a church located at 21 Jump St., where Capt. Dickinson (Ice Cube) informs them that their new assignment is to go under cover at a local high school where a synthetic drug ring is operating. Here they are to “infiltrate the dealers and find the supplier.” And the romp is on.
Now if you are a regular reader of this blog (I certainly hope that you are.), you know that I am not a huge fan of inane comedies, but this one really works because of the great chemistry between Hill and Tatum. Their comedic timing is superb, and they play off one another beautifully. It’s obvious that they really enjoyed making this film.
In addition to the clever repartee between Jenko and Schmidt, the film offers some very funny scenes, including the one early on in which the two bike cops screw up their first chance at a bona fide arrest. Of course, in films like this you would expect several obligatory chase scenes, but the ones here are so bizarrely original that they are actually fresh instead of hackneyed. There’s also a hilarious scene at a party, and at one point the guys try to help each other do something (I won’t spoil it.), and this scene really displays their gift for comedy. And the scene in which Hill portrays a famous character in the high school play is almost a showstopper.
Complementing the fine work by Hill and Tatum is the performance turned in by Cube as the hard-bitten police captain. The scenes in which he issues orders and addresses the members of his team are terrific, and he makes the most of several classic speeches.
If you plan to see this film, however, you should be forewarned that it is riddled with profanity. In fact I can think of only one taboo word that isn’t uttered during the movie. There is a veritable plethora of F bombs and variations thereof, and so if this type of language offends you, the film definitely will not appeal to you. And there is also that one really gross sight gag near the end that I thought pushed things just a bit too far.
On the other hand, if the profanity doesn’t bother you, “21 Jump Street” (Give it a score of 7.) is a consistently entertaining and often funny action-buddy comedy. Of course, the ending sets up a possible sequel, and if it comes out, I will probably jump at the chance to see it.