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21 Jump Street

21 Jump Street

Released 16 March 2012
Director Phil Lord, Chris Miller

Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Jake M. Johnson, Ellie Kemper, Ice Cube, Brie Larson, Dave Franco
Writer(s) Michael Bacall

Stephen J. Cannell, Neal H. Moritz
Origin United States
Running Time 109 minutes
Genre Action, comedy
Rating 15A

Teen spirit.

Long awaited by nobody in particular, 21 Jump Street is a film adaptation of the ‘80s cop show that made a name for Johnny Depp. The address of the title is the headquarters of an undercover police unit engaged in keeping tabs on crime in high schools using youthful looking cops. Enter rookie cops Jenko (Channing Tatum) and Schmidt (Jonah Hill), tasked with uncovering the source of a new and dangerous drug currently popular at a local high school.

Yes, it’s definitely time to crank up your suspension of disbelief. Depp at least looked youthful enough to pass for a high school student in the original series; Tatum (age 31) and Hill (age 28) on the other hand, are the least believable high schoolers since John Travolta donned a leather jacket for Grease. Thanks to a tongue in cheek, self-referential script from writer Michael Bacall though, its stars don’t completely sabotage the concept. Instead, the blatantly preposterous storyline and its equally incongruous characters are mocked for comedy value. It’s a tactic that does indeed raise a few chuckles, particularly with regards Tatum’s particularly adult physique.

The other gags are mostly aimed along two lines - the mishaps of the rookie cop and the changing face of the American teenager. The latter is much more successful than the former. Where once Jenko was king of high school, he now finds himself out of odds with the cool kids who are more interested in saving the planet than worshipping the school quarterback. For him, it’s like the lunatics have taken over the asylum as the former outcast Schmidt is now deemed to be cool. It’s in sending up these high school cliques that the film really finds its feet. The crime side of things feels strangely disconnected, with an action filled Prom night chase feeling tacked on.

A good natured comedy has become an increasingly difficult thing to find just lately and 21 Jump Street is a sweet, silly affair with just enough laughs to pass muster. Plus for all you fans of the original series (if there are any out there), Johnny Depp even shows up for a cameo.

- Linda O’Brien