21 Jump Street | Film review
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum spoof the ’80s cop drama.
When it comes to contemporary comedy, Hollywood has nothing on the boob tube. Casting directors know it: Scan the margins of your average studio yukfest and you’ll find a supporting treasure trove of prime-time players, all carted in to add some funny around the edges. 21 Jump Street doubles down on that strategy. Not only is it rehashing a moldy ’80s-television property—a point that’s winkingly acknowledged from the start—the movie saves many of its best lines for its TV-trained ringers, including hulking Daily Show correspondent Rob Riggle and mustached Parks and Recreation scene-stealer Nick Offerman.
More of a scattershot spoof of the Johnny Depp–starring undercover cop series than a straight relaunch, 21 Jump Street offers at least one truly inspired idea: Teenagers have become so enlightened and progressive—they care about the environment and call organized sports “fascist”—that a former jock superstar like Jenko (Channing Tatum) no longer possesses the formula for popularity. His partner, ex-mouth-breather Schmidt (Jonah Hill), is the one who now seems poised to infiltrate the cool kids’ circle. The two disguise themselves as students to bust a high-school drug cartel, a plan that involves throwing bodacious house parties and—in Hill’s creepy case—cozying up to a barely legal drama-club starlet.
The action sequences are cut-rate enough to make one wonder if directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs) were ready for the live-action big leagues. No matter: These Apatow-era comedies live or die on their laugh counts—and to that end, Hill comes through. The slimmed-down jokester performs a hysterical drugged-out musical audition, shrugs off a stab wound and builds a semi-endearing repartee with ubiquitous beefcake costar Tatum. He also shoots off a villain’s pecker. Good luck catching that on Must See Thursdays.