Review: 21 Jump Street (2012)

Directed by: Phil Lord & Chris Miller
Starring: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube

I’ll preface this review by stating what will soon become obvious to the general public: 21 Jump Street simply does not give a shit. When I say this, I say it with the utmost respect for the producers, writer Michael Bacall and directors Lord and Miller for remaining steadfast in their intentions with the material, taking a similar approach to rebooting the long-gone television series of the same title that 2004’s Starsky & Hutch did. While this implies that the film inevitably pokes fun at its precursor’s roots, it does so very effectively and in an hilariously over-the-top fashion, not one letting up and successfully avoiding any faults that similarly (and appealingly) lewd comedies have more recently fell victim to.

Mimicking its roots in a farcical, highly unconventional manner, 21 Jump Street does so on a very base level, thrusting misfit cops Schmidt and Jenko into the arms of an undercover organization comprised of young-looking people infiltrating local high schools’ more sinister criminal underbellies. From there, all you need to know is that the former, the archetypal nerd, and the latter, the prototypical male model jock-type, became the best of friends in the academy and are given a chance to relive their respective high school experiences in a case of accidental role reversal. Their objective? To find the source of a new synthetic drug making its rounds among the student body and sniff out the supplier at the root of its circulation. Agreeably simple, yet that’s all it needs to be given Bacall’s relentlessly balls-out script that’s as consistently entertaining as one would hope given the silliness the film’s marketing campaign suggests.

21 Jump Street differs from your typical R-rated comedy in that it doesn’t force its intended laughs upon the audience; it earns them. Making a not-so-subtle mockery of every action-oriented crime drama in existence while simultaneously remaining one of the best “buddy comedies” to come around in quite literally years, the film never once comes off as self-important or anything even close to convoluted. The narrative’s as thin as it should be, letting its two male leads shine hilariously throughout each would-be conventional high school activity, from participating in extracurricular activities high off their asses to simply taking a pop quiz. From a purely comedic standpoint, Jump Street hits literally all the bases that’ll immediately appeal to those looking for something unbelievably smart in terms of overall effectiveness and those won over by a sheer yet warranted excess of any and everything crass.

In coupling the requisite amount of thrills with straightforward hijinx as the undynamic duo bumbles helplessly toward their goal, Jump Street does so by once again mocking genre conventions while allowing Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum to shine wonderfully in their respective roles. In all honesty, neither of them have sported better chemistry with any one of their onscreen counterparts, playing off each other pretty much perfectly as their portrayals of the good-spirited, infinitely hapless pair of police officers never once fail to procure their intended effect on the audience. An equally excellent cast of supporting characters further aids the proceedings in being well above average, never stealing the spotlight from the titular two yet earning their fair share of laughs.

As a wildly entertaining and uncommonly hysterical farce, 21 Jump Street takes the cake as one of the best, consistently engaging comedies to come around in quite some time. Michael Bacall’s script teems with riotous happenings that tend to generate genuine laughs rather than making the audience feel uncomfortable, and Lord and Miller’s appropriate, confident pacing and comedic timing ensure that nothing feels particularly out-of-place or unnecessary. Its uncanny ability to bring out the best in its two leads coupled with how genuinely enjoyable it is, despite an intended emphasis on vulgarity, is simply unparalleled in the realm of the contemporary buddy comedy. In an era where the R-rated comedy reigns supreme, 21 Jump Street is the proverbial king of the hill in being everything we expect a successful film of its type should strive to be.


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