Parodying the buddy-cop genre, 21 Jump Street, based on the TV Series that launched Johnny Depp’s career, is a superbly realised, genuinely funny satirical comedy.
At opposite ends of the High School social spectrum, Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) find their chosen career path as Police Officers to be the great social equaliser. The athletic Jenko struggles with the academic side of his training, enlisting the help of the intelligent Schmidt. Schmidt, in turn struggling with the fitness element required, is coached by Jenko. A friendship initially founded on the services the other has to offer, this friendship of opportunity quickly develops into a genuine, affectionate relationship.
The pair, after qualifying as police officers, find themselves rapidly transferred after their first arrest goes desperately awry. Their youthful looks see them transferred to ’21 Jump Street’, an undercover unit that places police officers in high schools. Schmidt and Jenko are to infiltrate and expose a drug-ring, currently confined to one school. The pair are instructed to find the supplier before the newly developed drug spreads to other schools in the vicinity.
Rather brilliantly, the pair discover that the High School of their own experience no longer exists. Jenko, formerly a member of the undisputed popular crowd finds kinship with the outsiders of the school, the stereotypical ‘geeks’, whilst Schmidt’s sensitivity and intelligence, no longer derided, enables him to hold court with the environmentally aware, ever-tolerant ‘cool crowd.’
Gloriously self-aware, even directly referencing its ‘remake’ status, 21 Jump Street is, quite simply, very funny. Tatum, miscast in the recent The Vow, showcases his hitherto unseen talent for comedy. Together Tatum and Hill, reminiscent of Hill’s Superbad, are both supremely watchable and surprisingly affecting.
In lesser hands, 21 Jump Street would feel clichéd and rapidly become formulaic; instead the film, largely through its self-awareness, feels consistently fresh and importantly, at all times, wonderfully droll.