MOVIE - “21 Jump Street”
DIRECTOR – Phil Lord, Chris Miller
WRITER – Michael Bacall (screenplay and story), Jonah Hill (story)
SIX DEGREES OF CAST & CREW
-Everyone knows Nick Offerman as the awesome Ron Swanson from “Parks and Recreation.” If you don’t, you need to look up Ron Swanson on YouTube and thank me later. However, one of the things I didn’t know about Offerman is that he played Shlubb of Shlubb and Klump fame. Shlubb and Klump are the two verbally adroit low-level thugs routinely bashed in “Sin City.”
-There’s a serious “Scott Pilgrim” connection in “21 Jump Street.” Writer Michael Bacall handled both scripts, while Brie Larson played Envy Adams in Pilgrim and Molly in “Jump Street.” Johnny Simmons also did double-duty, playing Young Neil in Pilgrim and having a role in “Jump Street” as well. Meanwhile, Aubrey Plaza (Pilgrim’s Julie Powers) plays the lovely April on “Parks and Recreation” with none other than Nick “Ron Swanson” Offerman. Plaza was also in “Funny People” with Jonah Hill. Lindsey Broad (slutty Lisa) and Brie Larson also appeared together in the TV series “The Burg.”
-Rob Riggle and Parks and Rec star Amy Poehler both on the television show “Upright Citizens Brigade.” Speaking or Rob Riggle, he was born in my home town of Louisville, Kentucky. Riggle was on SNL in 2004-05 with, you guessed it, Amy Poehler. And Amy Poehler stars in Parks and Recreation with Aubrey Plaza and… Nick Offerman.
Jenko (Channing Tatum) and Schmidt (Jonah Hill) go back a long way. In fact, they knew one another in high school, where Jenko was a gifted athlete but an idiot and Schmidt was a classic wannabe nerd. Seven years later, Jenko and Schmidt meet again, this time while standing in line at the police academy in a buddy comedy meet cute. As they both soon find out, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Jenko is still a great athlete; Schmidt is still incredibly smart. The two decide that they should work together. Jenko gets Schmidt in passable shape while Schmidt gets Jenko to become a below-average (but not failing) student.
Of course, just because the two compliment one another doesn’t mean they’re somehow good cops. In fact, they’re the opposite: Jenko and Schmidt work themselves through the academy, only to become bicycle cops, where they promptly ruin an important investigation while trying to grab a little glory. After being reamed by the deputy chief, the two detectives are promptly shipped on down to 21 Jump Street, where their new boss (Ice Cube) tells Jenko and Schmidt that they’re going to be going under cover as high school students. The goal of Jenko and Schmidt: infiltrate the dealers and their ringleader Eric (Dave Franco, brother of James) and then sniff out the supplier.
For once, a movie explains why they have 30-year-old high school students! Unfortunately for the cops from Jump Street, high school has changed quite a bit from 2005. Can the two grown men adjust to the new reality for teenagers?
There are a surprising amount of references to the original “21 Jump Street,” and a few little meta moments commenting on the fact that this is a remake of an 80′s television show in the form of a revived undercover program from the 80′s, a brief passage which Nick Offerman knocks out of the park, as expected. There are a ton of surprising nods to the original show. Granted, I don’t remember the original show too well, but after having seen the movie and having investigated both IMDb and Wikipedia pages, I’m surprised by just what they brought in. Apparently, screenwriter Michael Bacall (“Scott Pilgrim vs. The World,” “Project X”) is a fan, or at least did a lot of research. He also has a ton of fun with various high school stereotypes, contrasting the early 00′s with the early 10′s for good comedic effect.
Still, aside from some vague plot points, this “21 Jump Street” isn’t that “21 Jump Street,” and doesn’t even try to be. This version is a straight-up action comedy, mixed with a little taste of high school drama for good measure. Think “Pineapple Express”; that’s the vibe “21 Jump Street” gives off for most of its run, what with the drugs and guns and general craziness. Yes, at times it gets a little dumb, but it never fails to be pretty entertaining, even considering you’ve seen some of the good stuff in the trailer already. Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller (“Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs”) still manage to keep the movie rolling, space out the comedy and action very well, and even engage in some dynamic camera work in between visual gags (and there are some great ones).
Jonah Hill is Jonah Hill; you know what he does and how he does it by now. He’s the profane funny one, with the brains and sarcasm and undercurrent of angst. As for Channing Tatum, he’s a pleasant surprise. He’s got good timing, makes surprisingly good faces, and gets some laughs with a good physical comedy streak. I have to say, I was impressed. I didn’t expect much, but my expectations for him were surpassed. Supporting players, like Ice Cube, Ellie Kemper, Rob Riggle, and Nick Offerman, are generally underutilized, but still quite a bit of fun.
The action comedy is relatively new genre, but it’s one that has been done fairly often in recent years. While “21 Jump Street” isn’t a highlight of the current vintage, it’s one of the better ones in awhile. There’s something to be said for a consistently entertaining movie. Even though it’s light on plot, there’s a lot of fun things going on and some fun performances to keep things lively.
RATING – 3 bicycle cops out of 5