VOD film review: 21 Jump Street
Ivan Radford | On 07, Jun 2014Reading time: 3 mins
Directors: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
Cast: Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill
Watch 21 Jump Street online in the UK: iTunes / TalkTalk TV / Amazon Instant Video
“They’re revamping a program from the 1980s because the guys in charge have got no ideas and they’re really lazy.”
That’s Deputy Chief Hardy to Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum), two rookie cops who are totally inept. Nick Offerman delivers the self-aware burst of exposition with a straight face – because if you’re going to get anyone to deliver self-aware bursts of exposition with a straight face, you hire Parks and Rec’s Ron Swanson – and sets the tone for 21 Jump Street. It’s silly, smart – and only just getting started.
The police force’s undercover unit for infiltrating high schools, 21 Jump Street is the perfect chance for high school tropes to be subverted, but directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller don’t just stop there. They subvert everything, from action movie cliches and its Hollywood stars to even their own sense of humour.
The opening is littered with obvious gags, from the buff-but-dim Jenko forgetting how to recite the Miranda rights (“You have the right to shut up”) to Schmidt struggling to run through the police academy training course. But once our duo don their high school personas, the movie’s intelligence moves up a grade. Michael Bacall, who also adapted Scott Pilgrim vs the World for the screen, doesn’t even let Tatum and Hill stay in their roles, swapping them so that Schmidt ends up doing sports and drama, while Jenko has to pretend to be a science nerd. The rest of the school is equally skewed; the cool kids care about the environment, kids want to learn and some of them deal drugs.
“Infiltrate the dealers! Find the suppliers!” yells Ice Cube’s irate Captain Dickson, as the cops get distracted by things like prom and Peter Pan productions. But Lord and Miller, who gave us the supremely surreal Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, refuse to follow the rule book of either teen movies or cop flicks. Instead, they bring us stop-motion ice creams, psychotic turned-on-teachers (a scene-stealing Ellie Kemper) and car chases where vehicles never explode. The poster for the film may look glossy and predictable, but under that cover is chaos. It’s thrilling to see – and hilarious to boot.
At the heart of the fray are two flawless leads. Hill is hilarious and endearingly awkward, while Tatum proves himself a master of deadpan comedy. “Hands up!” he yells at one pill-pushing biker. “You want me to beat your penis off? I will beat your penis off! With both hands!” After Magic Mike and Side Effects, Channing Tatum is one of the most underrated and brilliant actors of his generation – perhaps the most subversive part of the whole move.
Directed with an eye for physical slapstick and an unrelenting pace, Lord and Miller proved themselves the perfect match for The LEGO Movie with this comedy; a laugh-out-loud adventure bursting with anarchic imagination. 21 Jump Street is a remake that is nothing like its source material; a reboot that proves the guys in charge are far from lazy – and full of ideas.