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April 30, 2012 | by  | in Arts Film | [ssba]

Review – 21 Jump Street


21 Jump Street promises a lot. It’s been well- reviewed, and the premise is entertaining: two new police recruits are sent undercover in their old high school, with the aim of busting a teenage drug ring.

The film stars Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum as Officers Schmidt and Jenko. In their own high-school years, Schmidt had been a dork and a loser, while Jenko was a popular jock. They head undercover expecting to reprise their old high-school personas—but of course, the opposite happens. Schmidt manages to fall in with the cool kids, and Jenko is relegated to hanging out with a group of science geeks (spoiler alert: hijinks ensue).

The film is genuinely funny, with much of the comedy coming from Schmidt and Jenko’s unexpected role reversal. It‘s also surprisingly self-deprecating, relentlessly ribbing its own genre conventions, as well as the fact that it is a remake (at one point, the police chief dryly tells Schmidt and Jenko that the police bosses are out of ideas, and have to start recycling old ones).

But about halfway though, things start to go awry. The film ditches its situational, role-reversal comedy and metamorphoses, strangely, into an intense action flick. Schmidt and Jenko find themselves dashing from car chase to shoot-out, and back again. It seems almost as if the writers got tired half-way through the screenplay, and simply injected standard action fare into what had previously been a witty and amusing film. The second half is still entertaining, and occasionally very funny, but it doesn’t scale the same heights as the first.

21 Jump Street could have been a great film, but given the second half, it is merely very good. Hill and Tatum’s chemistry is really the beating heart of the piece—they play off each other well and although Tatum isn’t the most talented actor
out there, he is a natural choice for the likeable knucklehead Jenko. The film has wit, heart, and self-awareness, and these qualities ensure that it is entertaining from start to finish.


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