Film review: 21 JUMP STREET, from Built For Speed

For those not familiar with the TV show on which this film is based, 21 Jump Street was a late 80’s cop show starring Johnny Depp which had young looking cops infiltrating high schools to bust teenage crims.  This film version uses the original show’s premise as the flimsy basis for a combined teen comedy/ buddy cop movie.  While this film has a few self-referential gags and the occasional piss-take of cop show clichés (such as the angry black commanding officer played hear by Ice Cube), this is not a full-blown Zucker Brothers style genre parody.  This is a straightforward, occasionally quirky comedy that, while purporting to be a send up of cop shows, often relies on the genre’s action clichés.

Jonah hill and Channing Tatum play two bumbling rookie cops who go undercover at a local high school to bust a drug ring. Not surprisingly, their numbskull behaviour wreaks more havoc than any drug gang ever could.  Apart from catching crims, their mission seems to be turning nerds into party animals and rather creepily, hooking up with high school girls.

Hill and Tatum are a deliberately mismatched pair with Hill the pudgy, brainiac nerd who used to dress and dye his hair like Eminem and Tatum the meathead bully who preyed on butterballs like Jonah.  For Hill, the prospect of being thrown back into the high school environment is a nightmare while for Tatum it seems like a party time all over again.  Much of the film’s attempted humour involves Hill and Tatum confronting the fact that at high school the geeks have inherited the earth, football player bullies are out while political correctness and Glee style musical theatre is in.  The gags run out of steam pretty quickly, though and the film overstays its welcome by about 20 minutes. Some cameos briefly liven up proceedings but they aren’t exactly thrilling or hilarious.

The film also has a rather cavalier attitude toward drug use and tries to wrench humour from the sight of people tripping out; something Cheech and Chong did to tedious effect 40 years ago.  Also, while a film like this doesn’t need to be a visual masterpiece this one is noticeably cheap looking at times.

I had very low expectations for this film and the fact that there are some funny moments meant that it exceeded these expectations but it’s really only a notch or two above the likes of Dude Where’s My Car.

Directors: Phil Lord, Chris Miller

Released: 15th March 2012

Running time: 109 min

Verdict: 5.5 /10



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