Arts movie review

Brains and brawn team up to form an unlikely (and hilarious) duo

Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum return to high school in 21 Jump Street

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Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum play a motley pair of rookie cops in 21 Jump Street.
Photo by Scott Garfield, © 2012 Columbia TriStar Marketing Group, Inc.


21 Jump Street

Directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller

Starring Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, and Ice Cube

Rated R

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In this loose adaptation of the 1980s TV show 21 Jump Street, high school enemies turned best buds, Morton Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Greg Jenko (Channing Tatum) are a motley pair of rookie cops who find themselves transferred to the Jump Street unit, a revived undercover police program from the ’80s. In an attempt to find a drug supplier at Sagan High, Jenko and Schmidt pose as students and find themselves awkwardly navigating the social waters of high school once again. Fortified by his glory days as ruthless bully and super-star jock, Jenko confidently approaches the high-school scene while Schmidt anxiously anticipates a repeat of his teenage misery. This time around, however, Schmidt fits in with the new-age popular crowd, while Jenko’s antiquated notion of “cool” quickly undercuts his chances of moving up Sagan High’s social ladder.

While Hill delivers all the laughs we’ve come to expect from the Oscar nominee (albeit in a slimmer package), Tatum steals the show in his break-out comedic performance. Jenko’s rapid transformation from ruthless bully to lovable loser leaves him ironically gravitating towards the nerds of Sagan High. I’ll spare the details of Jenko’s exploits with his new group of friends, but suffice it to say that some of the movies finest moments involve Tatum acting like a total dork.

Although the jokes sustain rapid-fire delivery from beginning to end, the narrative takes some time to reach a comfortable pace. The first half of the film felt like an extended version of the trailer; the unusually brief scenes don’t allow for any serious character development, and if you blink, you might find yourself wondering how Jenko and Schmidt transition from enemies to allies. Thankfully, the director pumps the brakes about halfway through the movie where the narrative reaches a slower and sustainable tempo.

If you’re looking for some low-brow laughs topped off with an uncomfortable reminder that sometimes life can be just like high school, check out 21 Jump Street.