Jump Street Is Bang On Target

Going undercover: Jonah Hill (centre) and Channing Tatum (right) take their orders from Ice Cube.

Title:                        21 Jump Street

Certificate:               15

Directors:                  Phil Lord, Chris Miller

Major players:           Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube

Out of five?                4

I’d be the first to admit that 21 Jump Street isn’t my usual style.  A quick look at the films on The Coops Review gives you a pretty good idea of my cinematic tastes.  But don’t be deceived into thinking that my sense of humour button is permanently on ‘failure’ – which is why I decided to give this a try.

Both failures at high school, Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) run into each other again at police academy and end up in the same precinct.  Hill provides the brains and Tatum the brawn but the pair of incompetent cops find themselves relegated to the 21 Jump Street project, for officers deemed to be failing.  Their youthful appearances mean they are sent undercover at a high school where their mission is to bust a drugs ring.  All they have to do is infiltrate the dealers and find the source …….

Although it wasn’t made for my age group – and this was rubbed in by the relentlessly shoot-‘em-up, high octaine trailers beforehand – it didn’t stop me from laughing my head off throughout.  It’s a cracking action comedy.  And, for that reason, I’m not going to attempt to analyse it.  It wasn’t made to make you think: it was made to entertain and, in particular, make you laugh – and it does both really well.

The gags, both verbal and physical, come thick and fast, thankfully giving you just enough time to draw breath between them.  The conventions of cop and action movies are both sharply parodied, including some wonderfully funny slo-mo sequences, and there’s a neat running joke about explosions, just to underline the point.

Jonah Hill made his name in comedy, although the first time I saw him was in Moneyball, where he played it totally straight.  He’s enormously likeable in this, as well as funny: you genuinely feel his embarrassment when he discovers his parents’ shrine-like display of photographs of him as a child – but you chuckle at his discomfort as well.

Channing Tatum, on the other hand, has come in for more than a little flak of late for his acting – Danny Leigh on Film 2012 recently described him as “a potato” – but his choice of roles is probably more in question than his acting ability: in one of his early outings in A Guide To Recognising Your Saints, he was impressive as a teenager from an abusive home.  In 21 Jump Street, he shows he’s a good comic actor as well: I can only hope this means better roles for him in the future.

Among the supporting characters, there’s a priceless turn from Chris Parnell as the failed-actor-turned-drama teacher who refuses to let go of his past, and Rob Riggle as the sports teacher is every teenager’s nightmare with his cringeworthy attempts to be down with the kids.  There’s also an un-credited but much-publicised cameo from Johnny Depp, whose acting career was launched by the original 21 Jump Street teen TV series.

The film is more than good enough – and definitely popular enough, having taken $35 million on its opening weekend in the US – to spawn a sequel.  And, as the ending so obviously leaves open this possibility, Jump Street II looks like a dead cert.  In the meantime just enjoy the original!

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