Two 30-year old cops pretending to be in high school.
21 Jump Street is a film that pretends to be a parody on action-comedies and instead collapses under its own pretension. It’s a silly, stupid, obnoxious film, a movie that feels like a kid poking a wet willy into your ear and refusing to stop because you’re laughing inexplicably for some reason. Is it possible to feel this annoyed, or for that matter, this violated? Apparently so. This is a movie that is okay with constant profanity, blatant stereotypes and unfunny penis jokes to the point where it feels like these cops are pretending to be in elementary rather than high school.
As much as they’d like to make you believe, 21 Jump Street is not an expansion of the original television show it was based on. This movie follows an entirely new duo, this one much more clumsier and haphazard than the Johnny Depp-Peter DeLuise relationship in the original show. Morton Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Greg Jenko (Channing Tatum) are a dysfunctional pair of police officers that can’t shoot a gun or recite the miranda rights worth a damn. Schmidt plays the fat kid stereotype who can barely do a leg lift in the morning while Jenko is the strong-but-stupid stereotype that looks at answer choices on a test like they’re written in Chinese. Together, this lopsided duo plans to pursue a life of stopping crime as police officers. Little did they know that they’re starting duties included patrolling the town park, honking their horns and yelling at kids to not feed the ducks in the pond. Hey, you’ve got to start somewhere, right?
Well believe it or not, they mess even that up too. When arresting a gangster for cocaine possession, the gangster is eventually let go because he was not read his miranda rights. The duo is since transferred to this secret operation of undercover police work, located at a nice little chapel addressed at 21 Jump Street.
Sounds like a nice revisitation of the good old days with Johnny Depp, right? No. It isn’t. Whatever you hear about 21 Jump Street please hear this: that this is a complete deviation from the source material, and has been meat-processed through the unfortunate action-comedy formula into another recycled blockbuster.
Oh boy, where do I begin. First of all, let me start by looking at the most important part of the film: it’s leads. Hill and Tatum both served as executive producers for the film while Hill himself holds a story credit to the film. You would expect that, considering both of them have acted in comedies before this, that they would understand that most important element in comedies it the characters. With these two portrayals, they’re okay, but they’re only as good as their stereotypes will let them be. Jonah Hill is sheepish and clumsy while Channing Tatum is moody and stupid, and their characters don’t get much more expressive, or memorable, than that.
Oh no, they don’t go into an inch of smart or sincere territory, and their silly, childish interactions prove it. In one scene, Channing Tatum was whacking and tea-bagging Jonah Hill while he’s on the bed talking to a girl on the phone. In another, they’re fighting in the middle of a stage production while Hill is attached to a harness and Tatum is throwing plastic rocks and trees at him. Watching this duo makes me miss the smartly ironic and genuine chemistry that was shared in between comedic greats such as Jack Lemmon and Walter Mathau in Grumpy Old Men, or Steve Martin and John Candy in Plains, Trains and Automobiles. That’s better than the hopelessly slapstick mess we have here, at least.
There is another issue we have at stake here: that this is not an adaptation, doing more disservice to itself by linking it to the source material that it was inspired by in the first place. The original television show was a crime drama about a group of teenagers trying to prove themselves as cops and as heroes. The movie is an action-comedy that deconstructs that idea and makes fun of it before killing it off at the start of the film’s climax, though I won’t say exactly how. All I will say is that fans of the show will be extremely disappointed by this new outing, and even if they won’t be, they’re going to have to let go an important part of the show in order to enjoy this new one.
None of that is really important though. The actors, the faithfulness, nothing. The most important question is this: did it make me laugh?
Kind of. Most of the time my face was as plain as a checker board, erroneously letting the stupidity and immaturity of the film rub off of me as I continued to tolerate its runtime. There were a few fun, clever moments in the film, but seeing them was as rare as Jenko getting a C on his chemistry exam.
I will also admit that I’m not much into raunchy humor, but why would I be? It’s cliche and cheap. It’s plastic, mundane and annoying, butting its head in the way of genuine, clever humor birthed by dialogue and satire, rather than the jumbled action and sex jokes we have to deal with in this movie. Plus, when your best joke involves a police officer shooting off a guy’s penis, and then watching him grab it with his mouth trying to reattach it, I think there’s something seriously wrong with this films humor.
I do predict that this movie will fare well with audiences though. Why? Because this is what people want, that’s why. When I ask for John Hughes, I get Adam Sandler. When I cry for Ridley Scott, I get Paul W.S. Anderson. When I praise Inception, I log onto box office mojo to discover that Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen grossed ten million more than it.
The more I think about this movie, the more frustrated I become. This movie has little to no redeeming factors, the phrase “it was fun” being its only flimsy crutch. There will be no doubt people who will defend it, and these are the people who also enjoy raunchy sex jokes, Channing Tatum’s mug and Jonah Hill’s clumsy failings. When other action comedies exist out there such as Scott Pilgrim and Zombieland, why on earth would I waste my time seeing this? If 21 Jump Street was supposed to assault me as much as it did, I wasn’t read my miranda rights.