Friday, April 20, 2012

"21 Jump Street" Has Some Charm

Three Stars 

“21 Jump Street” is an affectionate satire loosely based on the vintage television police drama and about teenagers in general. This version of “21 Jump Street” plays it for laughs. The film starts in 2005, where Schmidt (Jonah Hill) is a nerdy teenager who gets tongue tied while asking a girl to the prom. He gets laughed at and called a nerd by Jenko (Channing Tatum), who is a jock. Fast forward a few years, and they are both in the police academy. Jenko still isn’t a good student, and barely graduates. Schmidt decides to help him and the two become unlikely friends. The two cops screw up and are quickly reassigned to 21 Jump Street, a division of cops who look young and go undercover in the local high schools. They have to take down a dealer who is supplying the kids with a new kind of drug.

When they arrive at the high school, they are shocked to find teens are not as they remembered. Caring about the environment is cool and comic books are in fashion. Jenko blames the TV show “Glee” and Schmidt observes he went to high school in the wrong era. The humor lies in the fact that the two guys take their assignment overboard. Jenko takes AP chemistry and makes friends with the nerds. Schmidt gets to be in the school play. The captain (Ice Cube) tells them he better not find them supplying alcohol to minors. They throw a party anyway.

Going back to high school gives Schmidt and Jenko an opportunity to relive their high school days. Schmidt becomes a better student. Jenko gets to ask a cute 18 year old girl (Brie Larson) to the prom. They both get to switch their high school roles as Jenko becomes a nerd in AP chemistry and Schmidt gets to go to parties. As they are adults now, they can look at high school without being immature about it. When Jenko overhears Schmidt ask a girl to the prom, he simply is happy for his partner. 

Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who are known for directing the animated kid’s picture, “Cloudy with A Chance of Meatballs,” they play the idea of cops going undercover as teenagers for laughs. Members of the original cast make cameos, including Johnny Depp.  The film has the mandatory car chase scenes and sight gags.  “21 Jump Street” is a sweeter film then I expected it to be because it plays to the idea of these undercover cops being friends, and the idea that if you get tongue tied when asking the girl to the prom the first time you’re a high school student, maybe you can ask a girl the second time around. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum have good chemistry. The script, co-written by Hill, generally has a lot of fun with the premise and is affectionate about the old TV show. That makes the film all the more likable.

No comments: