21 Jump Street Review

poster from the Columbia Pictures film 21 Jump Street

Choosing a movie to review this week was not hard. It was 21 Jump Street or nothing. I suppose I could’ve chosen something from previous weeks, but there was nothing there to interest me either. So 21 Jump Street it was. It’s not like I was opposed to seeing it per se. I like Channing Tatum. The only thing holding me back was my intense aversion to Jonah Hill. But I could suck it up for one movie. After all, the trailer made the story look pretty funny:

Two inept young cops are sent back to high school to infiltrate a drug ring run by the popular kids.

It sounds pretty simple – all they’d have to do is load it up with the usual high school clichés and shove the movie out the door. What surprised me was that they didn’t do that. They took the clichés, punched them in the nuts, and laughed at them while they writhed on the ground in agony. Which is incidentally also how the characters acted. It was brash, but also funny. Very funny.

The original 21 Jump Street was 1980s TV drama starring Johnny Depp before he was famous. It was about a group of young looking police officers who infiltrated teenage hangouts to solve crimes. It took itself fairly seriously. It even had public service messages after each episode to remind real teenagers that drugs were bad and stuff.

DVD cover for the Fox TV show 21 Jump Street from 1987

They also wore a lot of denim and shoulder pads and cut their hair like the New Kids on the Block.

The film version of 21 Jump Street is more of a satire of the original than a remake or continuation, because officers Jenko (Channing Tatum) and Schmidt (Jonah Hill) are inept and stupid, which their Captain (Ice Cube) assures them will help them fit right in with today’s teenagers.

Jenko and Schmidt make their first arrest from the Columbia Pictures film 21 Jump Street

FYI: The Miranda rights do not involve air humping.

Just a few years ago Jonah Hill (28) and Channing Tatum (31) really were playing high school students, but in this film, the high schoolers they’re trying to fit in with razz them for “looking like a 40 year old man.” The irony here of course is that the actors playing actual teenagers Molly (Brie Larson) and Eric (Dave Franco) are 22 and 26.

Schmidt talks to Molly from the Columbia Pictures film 21 Jump Street

This could easy be a scene from a movie about a twentysomething loser
falling in love with the quirky florist next door.

Their mission is to infiltrate the ranks of the popular kids, led by Molly and Eric, and find out who’s supplying them with a new designer drug. Unfortunately, in the seven years since they were in high school, things have changed a bit. Their gas guzzling Charger and Jenko’s rule of coolness: 1) don’t try hard and 2) make fun of people who do, are totally out of synch with the eco-cool popular kids who preach tolerance for all and compose original songs about global warming.

popular kids from Sagan High from the Columbia Pictures film 21 Jump Street

Like, OMG you guys, organized sports are so fascist! Let’s get high!

What this means is that Schmidt, who was nerdy and unpopular in high school, is now the cool one and Jenko, who was prom king, is seen as a more violent version of Rain Man. So when they forget which cover identity belongs to who and end up with the wrong classes, Jenko learns about wire tapping and wears sweaters decorated with pompom molecules in advanced chemistry and Schmidt ends up playing Peter Pan in drama and accidentally sabotaging track meets.

Jenko in a chemistry hoodie and Schmidt in a Peter Pan costume from the Columbia Pictures film 21 Jump Street

Something somewhere has gone very badly wrong.

Jenko and Schmidt are stupid and therefore funny, but the funniest lines often go to the supporting cast. Ice Cube, as their stereotypical angry black captain, Chris Parnell as the drama teacher who can’t be arsed, Rob Riggle as the inappropriate gym teacher, and Ellie Kemper as the chemistry teacher who wants to molest Jenko, are all hilarious.

chem teacher hits on Jenko from the Columbia Pictures film 21 Jump Street

“Okay, let’s check out your chest.”

So that’s plenty of comedy for the average person. But what made me really like this movie was the second level of clever satire aimed at writers and critics, who really know the clichés. Oil trucks riddled with bullets refuse to explode even when flaming motorcycles crash into them. The boys’ first captain pokes fun at the movie’s existence by explaining that on Jump Street “all we do is recycle old sh**,” and when the boys have their “I don’t want to be friends with you anymore” blowout in the middle of the school play, the drama teacher announces: “And that’s the end of act 2!”

Schmidt after being hit by a car from the Columbia Pictures film 21 Jump Street

All writers know the end of Act 2 is when the characters get run over by life.

It is shortly followed by Act 3, when a can of whoop-ass is opened on life and there are scenes where people walk toward the camera in slow motion, possibly with doves flying in the background.

going to prom with doves from the Columbia Pictures film 21 Jump Street

Because doves are badass symbols of peace and gunfights.

I laughed a lot watching 21 Jump Street, so I’m going to tell you to go see it. However, if you’re offended by profanity and crude sexual jokes, you may want to pick something else. Likewise if you’re thinking of taking your eight year olds (I’m thinking of you, people who sat in the row in front of me) don’t. Nothing in this movie is appropriate for kids. There’s a severed penis. And drugs. And every second word is a swear word. A kid would have to be at least 13 before I’d consider taking it to this movie, and I’m pretty easygoing when it comes to that stuff.

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