Movie Review | 21 Jump Street
Movie summary: A pair of underachieving cops are sent back to a local high school to blend in and bring down a synthetic drug ring. (IMDb)
Despite my friends telling me how good this movie was, I hadn't liked any of the trailers or footage I'd seen and practically avoided 21 Jump Street after release. That lasted up until hugely positive reviews for the sequel came out and my friends again asked me to watch the first movie, so I did - and I am so glad for my friends getting me to do that.
Jonah Hill is as reliably funny as ever, but also convinces when the action calls for it - even if that too is played for laughs. However, his best work in the movie comes when his Schmidt shares scenes with Brie Larson's Molly. They're a very sweet couple and, despite still leaning towards the comedic, those moments feel more natural, like a genuine couple having fun rather than set-ups in a script.
The biggest surprise of 21 Jump Street is Channing Tatum as Jenko, who is so, so good that you'd think he was just as well known as a comedic actor as Hill coming into this. Yeah, his character is possibly a little too dumb to exist in reality, but Jenko fits the material perfectly and provides some of the biggest laughs in the movie. Oh, Tatum is also really rather good at the who action thing - why he hasn't been snapped up for a superhero role yet is beyond me.
Cutting back to the aforementioned Brie Larson as Molly, who is just as sweet as previously mentioned and seems completely unaware of Eric's (Dave Franco) side business. Larson's funny too, although her moments usually come from reacting to Hill rather than being comedic by herself, but you can completely accept that she is an 18-year old student (the movie is very clear about this so the relationship with Schmidt isn't too creepy) who ends up a little out of her depth.
As for Dave Franco, he's brilliant as the slimy Eric, distributing the drug HFS (Holy Fucking Shit) at his school and coming across as this uber-cool top level student who ends up proving to be almost the opposite. Franco excels at both sides of this character and you can see why Molly would like him, even if you don't want to admit it because you'd prefer to see her with Schmidt.
The comedy in 21 Jump Street is actually pretty wide-ranging in usage, so there really should be something for everyone to laugh at here. There's character-based humour; slapstick; clever subversions of action movie tropes; completely deadpan characters delivering highly inappropriate lines and more - and it all meshes together wonderfully.
It also helps feed into the action, which also contains plenty of humour but is taken very seriously, especially with the threat of guns regularly popping up and proving key in the finale. Tatum takes on most of the workload here and is entirely believable at whatever he is asked to do, while Hill provides a lot of the comic relief with some excellent lines to let audiences know they shouldn't take it too seriously.
If 21 Jump Street has a weak point, it's with the antagonists. They feel like they're only really there because the nature of the movie requires it and are never really fleshed out like Jenko and Schmidt. Fortunately, the movie centres entirely on those two so you never really notice it, but it would have been nice to have a genuine opponent beyond an irritant like Eric who Jenko could snap in half if he wanted to.
One last point to make is that if you get a physical copy of the movie, the commentary with directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller; plus Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum is absolutely hilarious and entirely worth watching the movie a second time to listen to. They all get on great with each other and it ends up almost as funny as the film with how much joking and teasing there is.
21 Jump Street is a very, very funny movie and a great example of an action-comedy centred on the incredible rapport and chemistry between its two leads. The bad guys aren't the greatest, but they do help Hill and Tatum bring about some of the funniest sequences in recent years. And the commentary is almost as funny as the film!