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Film review: '21 Jump Street' screenwriters should be arrested

March 19, 2012|By BOB GARVER | Special to The Herald-Mail
  • In this film image released by Columbia Pictures, Jonah Hill, right, and Channing Tatum are shown in a scene from "21 Jump Street."
(AP Photo/Columbia Pictures - Sony, Scott Garfield)

"21 Jump Street" is a combination of three genres that have been done to death lately: the Bumbling Cop Movie, the Big Screen Version of an Old TV Show, and the Foul-Mouthed Sex and Drug Comedy.

Like most Bumbling Cop Movies, there are several scenes where the main characters expect something cool to happen like it would in a movie, and the results are less than spectacular. This device was clever once, now it's tired.

 Like most Big Screen Versions of Old TV Shows, the characters make tongue-in-cheek comments about how the lameness of movies based on TV shows. These comments aren't half as clever and are twice as tired as the movie thinks they are.

Like most Foul-Mouthed Sex and Drug Comedies, there's a lot of foul language and sex and drug humor. Sorry to not elaborate, but I have to spare the dirtier details. In this case the humor is at least somewhat clever and not quite as tired, so it's here where the film finds the most success.

Schmidt (Jonah Hill) is an awkward egghead who was miserable in high school. Jenko (Channing Tatum) is a dumb beefcake who was popular in high school but whose life has gone nowhere since.

After seven years, both meet up again as they train to become police officers. They help each other to qualify, but neither is mature enough to serve properly. Fortunately, there is an undercover program that needs immature officers. Their captain (a scene-stealing Ice Cube) sends them to take down a drug ring in a place that got the better of both of them, high school.

There's a running gag throughout the film that Jenko and Schmidt look like they're too old to be high-schoolers. Actually, the actors are too old even for the characters they're playing. Hill is 29, Tatum is 32. The characters are supposed to be 25 and I just don't buy it. The film further pollutes its own timeline by thinking that high-schoolers in 2005 would be obsessed with Eminem and "The Real Slim Shady." That song came out in 2000, five years later it was a fossil.

The film doesn't have much original to say as a cop movie, buddy movie, or high school movie. I will concede that it does do something interesting as a TV adaptation when we find out late in the film that it is actually a sequel to the TV series and not a remake. And yes, the film has a cameo from THAT star of the original series. To that point I will add that before the film there is a trailer for the actor's next film, another Big Screen Version of an Old TV Show in "Dark Shadows." The film looks horrible and the trailer received boos and insults from the crowd at the screening I attended.

"21 Jump Street" gets a pass from me because of its humor, an immature brand that I nonetheless found pretty funny. As embarrassed as I am to admit it, my favorite parts of the film involved drug trips, the best gag being Jenko's performance in a science class following intake. But there are mounds of other R-rated comedies I can recommend, including 2007's "Superbad," which is a much better movie where Jonah Hill also plays a high-schooler. Then again, "Superbad" isn't playing at the theater this weekend. There are worse ways to spend two hours than with a group of friends and a rowdy crowd watching a raunchy comedy like this and laughing at its idiocy together.



Two Stars out of Five.



"21 Jump Street" is rated R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, drug material, teen drinking, and some violence. Its running time is 109 minutes.



Contact Bob Garver at rrg251@nyu.edu.

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