Directors: Phil Lord, Chris Miller
Cast: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Brie Larson, Dave Franco, Ice Cube
IN Hollywood’s latest attempt to show that original ideas are few and far between, 80s TV show 21 Jump Street now has a big-screen presence in a strange blurring between remake, adaptation and sequel. And when you’ve got funny man Jonah Hill with a story credit, executive producer seat and playing one of the leads, you know to not expect the underlying seriousness of the original TV series.
In light of the emphasis on lightness, the plot is straightforward and rather formulaic, albeit perfect comedy fodder. Incompetent police officers Schmidt (Hill) and Jenko (Tatum) are hungry for more than just bicycle-bound park patrol, but when they royally screw up their first arrest, they’re sent to a reformed undercover operation that targets crime in local schools.
The partners are put in charge of busting a synthetic drug ring, but when they accidentally switch covers, jock Jenko is forced into the nerdy classes, while smart Schmidt steps into subjects not befitting his slacker physical fitness.
As would be imagined from such an obvious setup laden with comedic tension, a lot of attempts at humour ensue. And, refreshingly, the vast majority of it really works. While the film is somewhat slow to start in terms of a consistent comedic rhythm, by the time Jenko and Schmidt are rolling into school in the car they borrowed from the police impound, the laughs are coming in thick and fast.
Perhaps more surprisingly, it’s Channing Tatum who garners more laughs than seasoned comedian Hill; perhaps because Hill is doing a variation of his familiar shtick. Regardless of who is funnier, there’s no denying that the two leads have solid bromantic chemistry that helps to keep the energy high and the audience entertained. It also helps that the supporting performances from the likes of the inappropriately aggressive Rob Riggle (The Hangover), self-referential angry black captain Ice Cube (Friday) and teacher with a crush Ellie Kemper (Bridesmaids).
There are only a few serious moments that feel slightly out of place which, coupled with the less-than-hilarious opening, are the only times 21 Jump Street enters flat territory. Outside of these fleeting moments, the film is an unexpected hoot, with plenty of big laughs on offer for the audience that attended our preview screening.
The greatest thing about 21 Jump Street is how consistently hilarious it is. Considering I went into this film expecting a few Jonah Hill chuckles, I was impressed to walk out of the cinema having laughed a whole lot and had a hell of a good time in the process. Check it out.
21 JUMP STREET is in cinemas 15 March, 2012.
Review: Nathan Lawrence