21 Jump Street

19 03 2012

Call me strange, but I’ve never been a big fan of buddy cop films. Between the car chases, explosions, and other clichés, something always seems missing – an emotional connection. If I don’t care about the relationship between these two guys, why am I going to care about the rest of the movie?

21 Jump Street is a refreshing shift from the norm. The two lead characters, Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) were raised on a steady diet of buddy cop comedies. While going through police school together, they fantasized about shooting down drug lords after graduation.


Instead, they end up bicycling around a local park telling homeless people to stop relieving themselves in ponds. And they’re not even very good at it: Jenko is a dumb, athletic jock while Schmidt is nerdy. They make for a clueless combination.

After an arrest goes wrong (Jenko told the perpetrator that he had the right to suck a d*ck instead of the right to remain silent), the chief of police sends the pair to a new undercover division called 21 Jump Street.

The goal of this new division is to infiltrate local high schools and limit the supply of a new synthetic drug. That drug has already killed one student, and the chief of the division, Captain Dickson (Ice Cube) wants to find the supplier before it gets out of control. Seven years after their own senior prom, Jenko and Schmidt are headed back to high school for a victory lap.

They dress like teenagers, move back in with Schmidt’s parents, and try to fit in with the cool kids. At this point, the movie could have quickly degenerated into a jumble of awkward scenes involving grown men trying to relate with high school kids.

Fortunately, this never happened. While there are plenty of awkward moments, Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum steal the show with their happy-go-lucky attitude and crazy antics.


One highlight is when the pair is forced to ingest the new drug during classtime. What follows is an afternoon of mayhem. They start tripping while talking to a teacher whose head appears to be a melting chocolate ice cream cone. In band class, Jenko dives through a big drum while his classmates watch in confusion.

I’ve never liked watching Tatum in drama movies. I know girls like him for his pretty face, but I’ve always felt that his acting ability was lacking. That being said, he is perfectly suited for his role as Jenko, the dumb jock. Watching him fight crime side by side with Schmidt manages to stay fresh and entertaining throughout the movie, and he’s a surprisingly funny guy.

Lately, the buddy cop comedy genre has been particularly bereft of quality films. Remember The Other Guys? That has been the only standout over the last few years, and it wasn’t even that good.

21 Jump Street is different. It makes you care about the characters involved, and by the time the credits roll, you realize that 21 Jump Street is basically everything you would want from a comedy movie: entertaining characters, plenty of laughs, and even a few explosions and car chases.

A lot of movies end with a hint at a possible sequel. 21 Jump Street basically makes an official announcement that next time around, Schmidt and Jenko are going undercover at college. If it manages to recapture the magic of the first movie, then 21 Jump Street 2 will definitely be one to see.

4 stars out of 5