Review: 21 Jump Street

Directors: Phil Lord, Chris Miller
Writers: Michael Bacall(screenplay), Michael Bacall & Jonah Hill (story)
Stars: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube, Dave Franco, and Brie Larson
Genre: Comedy
MPAA: Rated R

Synopsis: Two former high school classmates from opposite social cliques become friends after helping one another to become police officers. After they consistently fail at their duties, they are given a final chance and reassigned to go undercover as high school students. While undercover they must deal with the problems of reliving high school and uncovering the source behind a new lethal drug that is being sold to the students.

It was no surprise to me who played what role in this film. Channing Tatum plays the role of Jenko, a former high school athlete who was very popular in high school but not that smart. Jonah Hill plays the opposite role of Schmidt, a high school academic achiever who is very smart but socially awkward. I saw Hill play a role that we’ve seen him play quite a bit so there were no surprises for me but still a lot of laughter. Expect to see a lot of sarcastic and awkward humor from his character, much like Seth from Superbad but with less confidence. Tatum is the one that I thought stood out in this movie, and in my opinion he steals the show. We’re used to seeing Tatum play the role of a love interest or some sort of militant hero where humor is mostly absent from his character. Playing the dumb jock is a cliché role that fits, but I think it is Tatum’s set up and delivery that are so precise and unexpected that it forces uncontrollable outbursts of laughter. The moment when he apprehends his first criminal definitely displays his jock nature. He treats the criminal as if he were a running back that he just tackled in a game of football. He then proceeds to ridicule the criminal profusely and even sexually, all while not reading the criminal his rights.

His only facial expression…

Ice Cube’s character is introduced as their captain once Jenko and Schmidt are reassigned to Jump Street. His role is that of the stereotypical angry police captain that is always seen yelling and reprimanding his officers. I liked Ice Cube in this role because it is a common role for him…angry. The scene where he is introduced made me laugh out loud because of how he is aware of that fact that he is stereotyped and how he responds to being stereotyped. His character’s appearance is minimal and not as prominent as I thought for someone listed in the cast in a starring role. He appeared in the film only when Jenko and Schmidt are returning from their investigation to report their findings and never appeared out of his setting from which we see him first appear in the film.

Eric Molson (Dave Franco), is introduced the first day that Jenko and Schmidt start high school. Eric is established as being popular, having a laid back attitude and wealthy parents. I think that Eric has an interesting part because in my opinion, he essentially sets the tone of high school for both of the main characters due to his popularity.The high school setting also introduces a number of side characters including the “macho” gym teacher played by Rob Riggle and Jenko’s science teacher played by Ellie Kemper. Both of these characters are present mostly for comic relief. Riggle reprises his usual role that we’ve seen in films like The Hangover and Step Brothers which always has a place in comedies such as these. I think that the scene where he is questioning Jenko and Schmidt about being on drugs is hilarious and you don’t get to see how funny it is in the trailer. Kemper’s role I found to be insignificant to the film and very drab. She had very little screen time but I think her screen time could have been reduced even more.

Eric essentially establishes the characters’ social status

Most of the characters in this film are consistently breaking down the “fourth wall”, alerting the audience to their awareness of elements of the film such as the fact that it is a remake and that their particular roles are stereotypical. The characters’ awareness of these elements actually elevated the humor for me. With the film being self-aware, I was able to be more relaxed and less critical, allowing me to see the film as a comedic parody rather than judging the film as a remake.

Even with the film being a parody, I thought it did (maybe inadvertently) touch on some key social aspects of the evolution of high school cliques. There is a familiar high school background from the hallways, classrooms, and common areas to the outside parties and eventual lead in to Prom. The background is the same as I’ve seen in many other high school related films but the crowd is different. In the beginning of the movie we see a flashback of how Tatum is portrayed as the popular one due to his athleticism and Hill is the outcast because of his reserved nature and intelligence. The modern day high school crowd is aware of social issues and commends intelligence therefore segregating Tatum’s character and embracing Hill’s character into their circle. Not only does this exhibit how students have evolved but it also follows a theme of rounding out your characters by giving them perspective. Both of the main characters get to experience what it is like on being in the opposing social clique and it strengthens their characters’ weaknesses that were established early in the film.

Overall this film was very enjoyable and funny. There was enough going on to hold my interest and it did what a comedy was supposed to do, it consistently made me laugh. The movie has a lot of familiar elements that have been used quite a bit but the film pokes fun at itself for using those elements. I thought the characters were animated and mostly fit into their roles very well. The humor can sometimes be crude and outrageous but it is also has a variety of subtle and sarcastic humor that makes it a very well balanced comedy. I would say that 21 Jump Street is this year’s Superbad and definitely deserves a viewing. It is a comedy so it may not be necessary to see it in the theater, but then you may be six months behind on the laughs that everyone has already had.


7 out of 10

Doesn’t need to be seen in theaters, but certainly worth it…


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About Ryan

First and foremost, Ryan Brown is a fan. He has been an avid fan of both the theater and cinema since an early age and his passion for both has been continually growing ever since. When dissecting a film, he focuses on all elements of film-making including some fan/cult factors. He believes that character development is the foundation of a good film and usually starts his analysis of a film from there moving forward. His writing style may be influenced by his background of narrative and argumentative studies in the subject, but he tends to enjoy a more conversational style to better interact with the readers, unlike some other pretentious and pompous writers.

5 thoughts on “Review: 21 Jump Street

  1. movie sucked as much as the first one, why let these two idiots make another, these two bozos couldn’t act their way out of a paper bag, goes to show how Hollywood has sunk so low, damn shame.

  2. Good review.

    I thought the film was great. It’s definitely one of the best buddy comedies I have seen in a long time. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum have some amazing chemistry together, but Tatum’s performance was a huge surprise.

  3. Good read Ryan!

    I enjoyed this movie a lot myself. I had a strange urge to want to watch this film and did not expect to find it as funny as I did. You touched on an excellent point, the movie is self-aware but more than that does break that fourth wall. It’s subtle but it’s also smart and sets a tone early on in the film where it addresses even the joke where this movie itself is a reboot/or TV movie adaptation. I thought Tatum stole the show too, which was another bizarre anomaly but it a credit to how the script works. I think my favorite part of the film was just the seemingly accurate portrayal of high school. I expected the same thing Tatum’s character did on cliques, etc. And I was wrong. I thought it was an interesting perspective on what you perhaps lived through versus what high school is today. Either or it felt relevant and refreshing. Definitely worth a watch.

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