Just when you think Channing Tatum's career is on the downturn, he cranks out 21 Jump Street, a critical and financial hit that ensures the sometimes-cardboard actor has a franchise on his hands. And don't forget Jonah Hill, who, hot off his Oscar-nominated performance in Moneyball, co-stars in this funny if sometimes obnoxious action-comedy.
Adaptations of old television shows rarely work, and the trailers suggested that 21 Jump Street would be yet another atrocious entry in the Hollywood-is-too-unoriginal-to-think-of-anything-new genre. Amazingly, the movie, which has the unlikely pair of Hill and Tatum going undercover in a high school to take down drug dealers, is clever, funny and fast-paced, everything an action-comedy needs to be.
The first act is especially strong as writers Michael Bacall hit all the right marks. As someone who attended high school in the 90's and has observed how being environmentally friendly, comic books and tight jeans have gone mainstream since, the humor, which pokes fun at how being environmentally friendly, comic books and tight jeans have gone mainstream, hits home. Even its pointed observation of how two-strapping backpacks at school has become popular again (in the 90's, you never would think of wearing your backpack on both shoulders!) is hilariously true.
Having never seen the original Johnny Depp-starring television series, I don't know how slapstick it was, but the 2012 theatrical adaptation is extremely slapstick. For whatever reason (well, the reasons listed in the paragraph above), it works.
More often than not, at least.
As funny as it is, 21 Jump Street does get a little tiring as the movie progresses. Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller spend a lot of time on how the once un-cool Jonah Hill is now popular and how the once cool Channing Tatum is now a nerd, and the divide that emerges within their friendship. The schtick gets old pretty quickly, however.
By the middle of the second act, it's hard to imagine either character, especially Hill's, as police officers. They're too emotional, too immature and too absurdly stupid at times, which makes it hard to respect them as characters. 21 Jump Street is a comedy, but the movie would have been better served had it remained a little more grounded, especially in regards to the two leads.
As is, the characters become exhausting.
21 Jump Street isn't perfect and tries a little too hard for laughs at times, but it's a funny movie that will go down as one of the better comedies of the year.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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