Sunday 18 March 2012

Review: 21 Jump Street

Year: 2012
Directors: Phil Lord, Chris Miller
Screenplay: Michael Bacall
Starring: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube

Synopsis is here:

All I know about the original 21 Jump Street is that; the original series, made Johnny Depp a teen idol. This was something he rejected, but it is what spring boarded him into the public concious. More so than his Nightmare on Elm Street role.

The idea behind the 21 Jump Street TV series is one of those streams of pop culture that someone like myself find surprising. It's not that I find it unbelievable, as a quick Google search can provide some interesting results. For me, it's that a show like that went on for so damn long. I may not know too much about it, but they mined this idea enough for 5 seasons? Fair enough. Then again I'm the kind of guy that gave up on Lost after two.

The film 21 Jump Street is a silly movie, yet it knows just how ridiculous it is. Early on, a police chief slyly denounces not only just the exercise of the film itself being made, but the current Hollywood trend of rehashing "old 80's shit and pretending that no one will notice". It's a typical wink to the camera gag that we've seen often before but it works well enough here. A problem comes however, when all the post modern gags and references fly in, and the young audience don't notice. It came to no surprise; that like the recent Apatow comedies, 21 Jump Street often fires jokes that will fly over the heads to anyone born after 1990, or isn't invested in pop culture. This isn't too much of a an issue, as there's other elements that may tickle the funny bone.  

I have to admit, by the time Icecube appears as the Angry Black Captain telling our two dunderheaded heroes to "embrace your stereotypes", I was won over. While not as subversive as expected, 21 Jump Street runs with what's got and manages to keep up a decent amount of comedic stream. Be it the effects of synthetic drugs working it's way through the body of these two "brothers", or the Galaxy High switcheroo the film plays between the leads, the film mines decent laughs out the absurd nature of the plot (they really don't look like teenagers).

For me it works, because Jonah Hill is an amusing motormouthed talent, while Channing Tatum lets loose and plays good looking dumb jock way better than I expected. Tatum has never really been a favourite of mine in terms of presence. Yet here, showing his comedic chops, he brings his best performance, wonderfully enthusiastic and at times sweet.

This could be said of much of the film, which captures some inbetweener style laughs and brings about a wonderfully charming double act to the furore. When the film misses the mark, it's with gross out gags that aren't so much disgusting, but badly placed. The film, like so many comedies, fumbles with it's pace in the later half and tries desperately to get back up to speed (may I suggest more of the wonderfully cute Ellie Kemper sticking out her tush?). The negatives in no way overshadows the positives. It's a film which has gigglesome moments in the duos bumbling antics and delayed explosions. It does so with a cheeky nod and a wink. It knows it's silly and allows you in on the joke.