Luckily, the filmmaking team of Phil Lord and Chris Miller (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs) chose the former with 21 Jump Street, a radical and hilarious revival of the late ‘80s series about young undercover cops specializing in youth-related crimes. Here, two young policemen – nerdy Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and dumb jock Jenko (Channing Tatum) – are sent undercover as students at a local high school to bust a drug ring led by the charismatic and popular Eric (Dave Franco).
On the first day, Schmidt and Jenko accidentally get their undercover identities switched, sticking shy non-athlete Schmidt in the drama club and track team, and academically challenged Jenko in advanced chemistry. They soon find things have changed since their high school days: intellectualism, activism, and the environment are in, while bullying and mocking overachievers are out. And so begins a reversal of fortunes as Schmidt enjoys the immense popularity he never found in his high school days, while Jenko learns what it’s like to be ostracized and insulted by the “in” crowd.
But back to the funny, which 21 Jump Street delivers in spades. The riotous jokes come at a rapid pace – so quickly that you risk missing a gag because you’re still laughing at the previous one. (The two funniest scenes: Hill and Tatum trying unsuccessfully to make each other vomit after taking a drug, then later tripping on the same drug while trying to do various school activities.)
Hill and Tatum are one of the best odd-couple pairings in recent movie memory. And while Hill is funny as expected, the comedic skills of Channing Tatum are a revelation. Put this man in more comedies. After his emotionally stunted performance in The Vow, his turn in 21 Jump Street is a monumental redemption. Running closely behind in the laughs department is Ice Cube as Hill and Tatum’s hilariously profane police captain.
21 Jump Street also benefits from a supporting cast that knows comedy, including Ellie Kemper (Bridesmaids) as an overzealous, hypersexual chemistry teacher and Rob Riggle as a crass gym coach. (Also watch for cameos by original Jump Streeters Johnny Depp, Peter DeLuise, and Holly Robinson Peete.)
The laughs in 21 Jump Street take a back seat during the middle of the film to advance plot and character development, but they don’t stay dormant long. And that’s the beauty of Lord and Miller’s ability to balance hilarity with heart, profanity with personality. This is the funniest R-rated comedy since the original Hangover or Hill’s earlier hit, Superbad. See it now.
Is it suitable for your kids?Nope. While hilarious, 21 Jump Street contains substantial drug use, brief nudity and sexual situations, and almost non-stop profanities. In addition, several people are shot (one person grossly loses his manhood), hit by cars, or blown up. Oh, and Tatum vomits on Hill. Don’t ask.
Will your FilmMother want to watch it?My FilmMother and I watched 21 Jump Street together, and she laughed as much as I did. If your FilmMother’s cool with the R-rated aspects described above, I’d say this is definitely one you can share together.
"Ow, stop it – my nurple can't get any purpler!"
21 Jump Street
* Directors: Phil Lord, Chris Miller
* Screenwriter: Michael Bacall
* Stars: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Brie Larson, Dave Franco, Rob Riggle, Ice Cube, Dax Flame, Chris Parnell, Ellie Kemper
* MPAA Rating: R
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