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Tony’s Review of “21 Jump Street” [VIDEO]

21 Jump Street Poster
(Image via Sony/Columbia Pictures)

Never did I think I would be looking forward to a movie with either Jonah Hill or Channing Tatum. I thought it to be even more unlikely that I would ever enjoy a movie with Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. After seeing the original red band trailer for “21 Jump Street”, I was interested. After seeing the movie earlier today, I want to see it again. Though it had its faults, “21 Jump Street” was very funny, and made me a fan of both Hill and Tatum.

“21 Jump Street” starts off quickly, giving a brief backstory for both Schmidt (Hill) and Jenko (Tatum). In 2005, Schmidt and Jenko are both seniors in high school, with Schmidt being a geeky, Eminem wannabe, and Jenko being a jock that likes to bully Schmidt. A few years later, Schmidt and Jenko run into each other at the Metropolitan Police Academy and become friends after Schmidt excels in the scholastic side and Jenko excels in the physical side, helping each other to graduate and become cops. After graduation, Jenko and Schmidt are assigned as partners on park duty, having to deal with kids feeding ducks and teens needing help getting their Frisbee out of the lake. After witnessing bikers doing drugs, Schmidt and Jenko make their first bust, but since Jenko forgot to read the suspect his Miranda Rights, the suspect is let go and Schmidt and Jenko are reassigned to a revived undercover operation based out of a church at 21 Jump St. As Schmidt and Jenko look and act young, they are assigned to go undercover as brothers and investigate a drug ring at a local high school. Due to a mix up with their files, Schmidt and Jenko end up in classes that each other are more qualified for. However, due to the change in times, Schmidt finds himself among the popular kids, who are actually the drug dealers, and Jenko ends up being taken in by the science geeks. As the story develops, Schmidt and Jenko find their high school roles reversed, seeing how each other dealt with High School treatment.

As the story is partially written by Hill, the script plays to Hill’s strengths as a comedic actor, basically doing what he’s done before. As a follow-up to his Oscar nominated role in “Money Ball”, Hill underperforms here, going back to the same type of character he played in “Superbad”. But for this kind of movie, that’s a perfect fit. Channing Tatum has never been praised for his acting ability, instead for his looks and physicality. For his part in this movie, the script plays on what Tatum can do as an actor, and uses his looks as a running punch line. Knowing that Tatum isn’t a skilled thespian, Hill’s script accentuates his positives and hides the negatives, allowing Tatum to give one of his best performances. The rest of the cast does a great job filling their roles, with Ice Cube as the “angry, black captain”, which is even pointed out to be a cliché stereotype, Ellie Kemper (“The Office”) as the AP Chemistry teacher Ms. Griggs who drools over Jenko, and Dave Franco (James Franco’s younger brother) as Eric, the most popular kid in school and the main drug dealer. Yes, Johnny Depp, Peter DeLuise, and Holly Robinson all have cameos, reprising their roles from the original TV series. However, Holly Robinson is the only one you’ll recognize immediately, with Depp and DeLuise’s cameos being pleasant surprises.

One thing that has become a trend in Hollywood is the taking of a serious dramatic TV series (“21 Jump Street”, “Starsky & Hutch”, “Dark Shadows”, etc) and turning it into a comedic film. While in most cases this comes across as an unnecessary change that just insults the source material and fans, in this case, the change to a comedy is actually very befitting of the story, taking it serious when it’s necessary, but poking fun at the clichés of the genre and the original series. There are a few moments when a joke goes on a little too long, or the humor is just from the awkward and embarrassing nature of the moment. But there are many jokes that are done with great timing that are genuinely funny. After seeing a few little snippets cut into the end credits, I’m wondering if we will get a Director’s Cut when this is released on DVD and Blu Ray. A few of the short little scenes would have made some story points make more sense had they been kept in their original place.

This movie is far from perfect, but is so enjoyable that the good parts outshine the inferior. Hill and Tatum work very well as a comedic team and Tatum showed that he can be a passable actor given the right script. After seeing “G.I. Joe”, I wanted to see Channing Tatum tarred and feathered in the town square. Now seeing what he can do in the right movie, I admit that I’m a fan. I wasn’t as impressed with Hill, but mainly because it was just the same kind of role he’s known for playing. This movie is rated “R” and earned every bit of that rating with the language and humor. And by the time you get to the end of the movie, you’ll be thinking, “Ok… I have now officially seen everything.” If you’re at all interested in the movie, it will be worth your time and money to see it on the big screen, but aim for a matinee. If you pay full price, there’s a chance you might feel like you didn’t get your money’s worth.

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