Susan Granger's review of '21 Jump Street'
Published 12:09 pm, Saturday, March 17, 2012
Reviving and re-inventing the 1987 action-comedy TV franchise seems to work as Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum play recent, still youthful looking Police Academy graduates who are assigned to infiltrate and expose a high-school drug ring that produces a potentially lethal synthetic that has already claimed one life.
After botching a bike patrol arrest, these immature, former social adversaries are assigned to go undercover at a former church, located at 21 Jump Street, reporting to tough Capt. Dickson (Ice Cube). Brainy Schmidt (Hill) endured an emotionally painful adolescence, being bullied as a chubby, geeky outcast with an Eminem haircut, while brawny Jenko (Tatum) was a popular jock, although both missed their senior prom -- for different reasons. Acknowledging that they're older and wiser now, they're confident that they can utilize what they've learned to conquer the demons of those formative years and outwit today's teenagers. Not so fast!
Trying to bust the student body's gregarious, environmentalist, song-writing drug-dealer, Eric Molson (Dave Franco, James' younger brother), isn't quite that easy, nor is befriending fellow classmates and teachers. Science nerds rule these days, while athletes have lost their cool status. There's a complete role-reversal, as Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum enthusiastically play off each other with Hill doing the action and Tatum being traumatized, and both coping with the anxiety and angst of being teenagers again.
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Loosely adapting the concept that launched Johnny Depp's career, it's formulaically scripted by Michael Bacall ("Project X") and co-directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who previously collaborated on the animated disaster-movie spoof "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs." Depp does a cameo as Officer Tommy Hanson.
After his "Moneyball" Oscar-nomination, Jonah Hill is hot -- and he spearheaded the timely updating of the concept created by Patrick Hasburgh and Stephen J. Cannell that ran for five seasons. Surprisingly, former Chippendales-style stripper Channing Tatum ("The Vow," "Haywire") is really funny, proving his comedy chops.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "21 Jump Street" is a silly, slapstick 7, spoofing the series by playing it for laughs.