March 20, 2012 by Vinnie Leduc
I gotta give Jonah Hill props. After failing badly to carry The Shi–I mean, The Sitter in his first solo headlining role (and his last “not-so-Slim-Shady” one), he’s moved way beyond one of our finalists for Worst Movie of the Year and instead has been sailing on a wave of success that’s included Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for his performance in Moneyball. And now his newest film, 21 Jump Street, is an early candidate for best comedy of the year. Emphasis on his.
Hill, who also executive produced and co-wrote the movie with Michael Bacall (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World), described 21 Jump Street as “Bad Boys meets John Hughes”, which sums it up nicely. I’d also throw in Hill’s breakout film Superbad because 21 Jump Street is basically what you’d get if you recombined Superbad‘s DNA and replaced Seth Rogan and McLovin’ with Channing Tatum and Dave Franco (his older brother is clearly James), who was probably the best casting choice outside of the leading duo.
21 Jump Street stars Hill and Tatum as buddy cops who were social polar opposites in high school but now must re-experience teenagedom as undercover students trying to infiltrate a drug ring. Technically, it’s a sequel of the late ’80s / early ’90s TV series of the same name, but the police procedural drama has been completely transformed into a buddy cop comedy, so I don’t think it’s essential to have seen the show that helped launch the career of Johnny Depp, who famously disliked the teen idol status that it gave him and subsequently has only chosen roles to his personal liking. I never watched it and don’t know anybody who did, but regardless I’m sure most viewers will appreciate the homage 21 Jump Street pays to its roots and the humor it finds in comparing the emerging young generation to previous ones, one of its best qualities.
Consistently funny and engaging for the most part, the movie could’ve done without a handful of lowlights, starting off with the failed carhood-jumping that’s concluded every one of its trailers. It’s clearly the worst part of the previews and the worst part of the movie itself, where it fits in even less, so it’s baffling as to why it wasn’t cut. Same goes with some of the under-the-influence scenes and all of Ellie Kemper’s. Her stuff might have worked in Bridesmaids, but unlike her Office co-star’s in Bad Teacher, it doesn’t here. 21 Jump Street still has the male frontal nudity that I’ve complained about before, but thankfully it’s limited to not much, so don’t pass up a chance to catch Jonah Hill’s smooth transition to a smaller physical size but more impressively, his successful writing debut. 21 Jump Street gets 3 out of 5 stars or B- or Good.