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Jonah Hill
Brie Larson
Ice Cube
Channing Tatum
Dave Franco.
Phil Lord
Chris Miller.
Michael Bacall.
Running Time
109 minutes

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21 Jump Street
Or, Serpico goes to high school

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Schmidt and Jenko (Hill and Tatum) ate on opposing sides of the canteen in high school. Now adult cops, partners and best friends, they are given a mission to pose as teenagers in order to bring down a drug ring. Both find school a very different place second time around.

21 Jump Street
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The title 21 Jump Street probably means very little to most people under 30, particularly in Britain, where the 1980s Johnny Depp-starring cop show, in which patently adult police officers posed as teenagers to solve crime, never caught on in quite the way it did in America. Certainly it’s no cultural touchstone for ‘The Kids’, who make up much of the target audience for this. Honestly, it doesn’t really matter if you’ve never even heard the name before. Nostalgic familiarity is of very minor importance in enjoying a film that is often inspired, frequently insane and always very, very funny.

21 Jump Street is a very weird comedy. It’s sort of ‘Michel Gondry makes a high-school movie with Judd Apatow’ weird. That’s a good kind of weird, but it’s weird nevertheless. The story itself is perfectly normal: two very different cops (Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill) are sent undercover to bust a high-school drugs ring, which requires them to pretend to be teenagers and relive their school years, during which they hated each other. The comedy is abnormal. It covers very broad slapstick (people deliberately running over each other with cars), to nakedly meta (particularly a long speech in which a character complains about nobody doing anything original anymore, instead just recycling old stuff nobody remembers), to odd for the sake of odd (Korean Jesus). It throws jokes at the screen with such frenetic frequency that some inevitably won’t stick, but more than enough do, even ones that don’t make much in the way of actual sense. By the time you’ve realised that you’ve just laughed at a situation you don’t wholly understand it’s gone and you’re on to the next one.

Hill co-wrote with Michael Bacall (Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World) and they make some very astute choices in their depiction of high school. It’s not the typical 40-year-old’s view of school that we usually see in movies, where all the popular kids are jocks or cheerleaders, anyone who cares even remotely about anything is a nerd, and somewhere there’s a grouchy head teacher who has plenty of time to dedicate to busting just one kid. It’s far more intelligently observed than that. The cool kids (led by Dave Franco, who is smartly, gently emerging from his elder brother’s shadow, and the adorable Brie Larson) actually care about their future and don’t spend their time seeking people to bully. One of them is gay and nobody gives a damn. There’s a very small but brilliant moment where a character expresses dismay when someone phones her, because she “only ever texts” unless it’s her mother. The science kids are still seen as desperately sad, but then some things are just eternal.

While the laughs work in the majority of cases, it is quite scrappy in terms of story. This has the feel of a film that improvised for hours and then worked out later how to piece it all together. There are the vital story beats that it knows to hit, but in-between these it veers off in myriad directions, seemingly sometimes unsure itself of what this bit is about. When it goes somewhere funny that’s not an issue, but you do occasionally want to just give it a shove back onto the rails. It’s so antic that some scenes appear just a few moments and one more screaming argument away from tipping over into a mess, though thankfully it always pulls back just in time.

Of the leads, it’s surprising that it’s Tatum who stands out. He’s always been a capable actor but hasn’t really been the standout in anything since A Guide To Recognising Your Saints. This is quite possibly the performance of his career. He proves himself to be a skilled, loose comedian. His simple-minded character, who winds up posing as a science-brain through a very silly mix-up, is thoroughly charming and, possibly by accident, the real heart of the movie, as he realises he’s better than just the dumb jock. Hill is called upon to be more obnoxious as a guy getting a second chance at the popularity A-list after spending his teenage years as the permanent outsider. It’s something Hill knows how to do well — this role isn’t vastly removed from his turn in Superbad — though there is a stretch towards the end of the film where he becomes so self-important and unlikable that it pretty much kills the comedy. The Hill and Tatum double act is one that has many reasons why it shouldn’t work, yet, like the film around them, it’s so inherently mismatched that its oddness becomes its greatest asset.

21 Jump Street has that Anchorman experimental-chaos vibe, with all the hit-and-miss moments that implies. It’s completely lunatic and sort of a mess. It’s also the funniest high-school comedy to come out of Hollywood in ages.

Reviewed by Olly Richards

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for 21 Jump Street
Empire Star Rating

Original and hilarious

Loved this film , these two are the newest comedy duo to watch! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ipek1980 at 11:19, 14 June 2014 | Report This Post

RE: 21 Jump Street

Wow! I am honestly surprised anyone likes this movie. easily the worst comedy ive seen in a long time ((POSITIVE VIBES )) Ted- That was a great movie, watch that instead! ... More

Posted by Dannybohy at 14:07, 09 January 2013 | Report This Post

RE: 21 Jump Street

A fantastic blast, which I think would do well as a double bill with Hot Fuzz. It was really funny throughout and I loved the running jokes throughout the film. Fuck you science! 4stars easy! ... More

Posted by kumar at 12:55, 09 January 2013 | Report This Post

21 Jump Street

It sports some major flaws, but 21 Jump Street is outrageous and hilarious. The script never takes itself too seriously, while at the same time spoofing the cliches of 80's action and teen fllms, while not engulfing itself into those cliches. One of the funniest and smartest films in recent years. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by norgizfox at 03:21, 15 July 2012 | Report This Post

RE: F*ck you, Glee!

Being honest I was expecting very little. I always thought Channing Tatum was a plank and I dont really find Jonah Hill all that funny, I just don't. However 21JS is a fucking joy of a movie. Yes it's a bit all over the place and yes it's probably 20 mins too long but the dialogue is sharp when needed (The whole "Angry Black captain" speech) knowing ("I partied with RDJ before he was sober and more fun") and at time just downright fucking hilarious ("Fuck you Glee!") A decent premise and a... More

Posted by Keyser Sozzled at 12:08, 07 July 2012 | Report This Post

RE: F*ck you, Glee!

Was ok,the leads are ok too.Nothing great,nothing dire. ... More

Posted by TragicRomantic at 06:18, 07 July 2012 | Report This Post

RE: F*ck you, Glee!

I thought it was utterly ridiculous. Perhaps I'm just too old for this modern humour but I thought it was scatty and the two leads were so dull. Edit - personal links go in sigs. If you wish to review please put it here, don't direct users off-site. ... More

Posted by Y2Neildotcom at 09:54, 06 July 2012 | Report This Post

F*ck you, Glee!

Incredible. Haven't laughed like that at a movie in quite some time. Tatum really surprised me. One of the best movies of the year. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Turd Ferguson at 15:08, 28 June 2012 | Report This Post

RE: 21 Jump Street

L: Phubbs Never saw the original TV series as it wasn't really on UK TV much as I recall so I'm unable to really comment on comparisons, but after reading up it does seem like this comedy is relatively close to the source material. t was on Sky One in the early 90s but not sure if it was on any other channels before then. Probably not. I have watched some of season one recently and it is actually not a bad show. It's not a comedy but it's a quite good action drama type show. ... More

Posted by Shifty Bench at 17:30, 03 May 2012 | Report This Post

RE: 21 Jump Street

21 Jump Street (2012) Never saw the original TV series as it wasn't really on UK TV much as I recall so I'm unable to really comment on comparisons, but after reading up it does seem like this comedy is relatively close to the source material. Basically some young looking dudes are put into a local high school to crack down on a drugs ring, the reason they are used for the case? they are young looking, pretty much the same deal as the TV show. Of course this film is akin to older film... More

Posted by Phubbs at 17:20, 03 May 2012 | Report This Post

RE: 21 Jump Street

"Fuck you, Science!" Who would have thought Channing Tatum was a comic genius? ... More

Posted by Timon at 10:04, 02 April 2012 | Report This Post

one of the films of the year

terrific. this is the year of the Tatum ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by tysmuse at 23:03, 01 April 2012 | Report This Post

RE: Seen the trailer, seen the movie

Great film. Much funnier than I was expecting. The bit where Hill and Tatum are on that drug at the school had me in stiches. ... More

Posted by nhassell at 14:51, 29 March 2012 | Report This Post

Seen the trailer, seen the movie

Man, even Ice Cube was lame in this. Shame, this had the potential to be good, but it just sucks. Even with a comedy, it helps if you give a shit about what's going on. Maybe my sense of humour disappeared before the movie even started with the new American Pie trailer. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by BatSpider at 22:41, 28 March 2012 | Report This Post

RE: Silly fun that definitely works

I'll echo everyone else in this being one of the funniest films I've seen in a long time, I'd say the last film anywhere near as funny (bar The Muppets) was probably Bridesmaids or Horrible Bosses, thankfully there's American Pie and The Pirates coming up also so should be a good year for funny... but I enjoyed every second of this, from the great leads to supporting roles like the great Chris Parnell and even familar faces like the one from Bridesmaids and Nick from New Girl, and of course the... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by DJ Rob C: Mark II! at 09:20, 25 March 2012 | Report This Post

RE: Silly fun that definitely works

Funniest thing I've seen in absolutely ages. Tatum tripping balls was the highlight. Laughed so much I was nearly sick. ... More

Posted by jcthefirst at 23:21, 24 March 2012 | Report This Post

RE: Silly fun that definitely works

Thought it was initially quite funny but ran out of steam long before the end. Decent entertainment but that's about it really. ... More

Posted by mackey at 14:16, 23 March 2012 | Report This Post

Silly fun that definitely works

I went to this film not expecting much but was very surprised with how silly and yet funny it was. Well written and comically well acted. It lacks a lot of depth but you leave feeling it deserves nothing but a good rating. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Filmmuscle at 13:24, 23 March 2012 | Report This Post

RE: repeat street

Surprisingly less terrible than expected, this derivative comedy just about meets the requirements to being watchable. I'd give it about 52% ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by spamandham at 13:57, 22 March 2012 | Report This Post

RE: Very Surprised

Im very surprised it got 4 stars in Empire. It was quite good, nothing original (in plot and tone it is very similar to Will Ferells 'The Other Guys') but the best jokes are in the first 30 minutes. It is only a bit funnier than The Other Guys. I have to disagree with everyone about the surprise cameo. Im sick to death of surprise cameos in these kinds of comedies. At least this time the actor was playing a part and not himself. It stoped the film dead and took 5 minutes to fully get ... More

Posted by Greggieboy at 11:55, 22 March 2012 | Report This Post

Very Surprised

The trailer makes this out to be pretty lame, but it's actually pretty awesome and the gags are fantastic. Very pleased to see a lot of people here were surprised at how good it it. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Nate_001 at 21:12, 21 March 2012 | Report This Post


I was so pleasantly suprised by this pretty awesome comedy!! The gags come quick and fast as two cops (Hill and Tatum) go undercover posing as teenagers to bring down a drug ring in High School. It's without doubt one of the best High-School comedies to emerge in years as Hill and Tatum create great comedic chemistry as they try and iffiltrate thier way through nerds, jocks, goths, emos and the 'in kids' to get the leads and bring the drug ring to justice. What shines in this comedy is it's... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Ramone87 at 21:07, 21 March 2012 | Report This Post

RE: 21 Jump Street Review

I went to see this last night and was pleasantly surprised by how funny it was. Channing Tatum was very good. ... More

Posted by Stillwater at 19:29, 21 March 2012 | Report This Post

21 Jump Street Review

21 Jump Street is better than I thought it would be, but is not at the same comedic level as other hits like Superbad or The Hangover (Dir. Todd Philips, 2009). This film utilizes many forms of comedy, most probably to attract as bigger audience as possible; which is has. The acting is as it should be in a comedy film, apart from a cameo near the end which was mind-blowingly fantastic. 21 Jump Street has been a success as it has stuck to what people between the ages of 15-25 enjoy, which include... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by DaleLawson at 13:44, 21 March 2012 | Report This Post


21 Jump Street was really great. I was very surprised with how good it was. From the moment they first go undercover in the school it's pretty laugh out loud stuff right to the end. This feels weird typing, but Tatum was hilarious and the easy highlight of the movie, and not just his character and the way it was written but his delivery as well, he came off as naturally funny. Jonah was really good too and this was probably his best film (excluding Moneyball) since Superbad, and I actually enjoy... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Coyleone at 22:31, 19 March 2012 | Report This Post

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