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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

RE: 21 Jump Street

L: Filmfan 2 I enjoyed it a lot. A genuinely funny film where most of the best jokes aren't ruined in the trailer (and having viewed the film, some of the jokes in the trailer were from different takes or deliberately set-up so that they were different in the final cut, which was a pleasant surprise). Recommended. noticed that too, the bit where he smashes in the windscreen doesn't feature in the final cut which suprised me! ... More

Posted by yazoo88 at 14:26, 19 March 2012 | Report This Post

RE: 21 Jump Street

I enjoyed it a lot. A genuinely funny film where most of the best jokes aren't ruined in the trailer (and having viewed the film, some of the jokes in the trailer were from different takes or deliberately set-up so that they were different in the final cut, which was a pleasant surprise). Recommended. ... More

Posted by Filmfan 2 at 14:04, 19 March 2012 | Report This Post

RE: 21 Jump Street

I expected this to be one of those films where all the funny parts were featured in the advert, I was very wrong. It was hilarious from start to finish, and the laughter was shared by everyone in the cinema. Refreshingly different and about time a decent comedy made its way to the big screen, hadn't laughed this much since Hangover 2! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by yazoo88 at 11:06, 19 March 2012 | Report This Post

Comedy-action rescued.

The only three minutes of the film that I wasn't laughing was the three minutes of jokes in the trailer, and mercifully most of these are dispatched within the first ten minutes; and amazingly, they don't even come close to the funniest. For a pure giggle riot, this is totally five star. Possibly not on the second viewing, though, but who cares, I just loved it. ---- ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by thebackseatdirector at 21:48, 18 March 2012 | Report This Post

Wickedly funny stuff. The whole audience was belly laughing the whole way through. The surprise cameo was also AMAZEBALLS, so glad they didn't ruin it in the trailer. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Whistler at 23:04, 17 March 2012 | Report This Post

RE: 21 Jump Street

I can't remember the last time I laughed this hard in the cinema, "I will beat your dick off !..... With two hands !! Couldn't agree more about Tatum, the guy was hilarious. ... More

Posted by Dirk Miggler at 22:23, 17 March 2012 | Report This Post

RE: 21 Jump Street

This is a great comedy and Tatum is amazing. I am now sold on him as an actor! Four big stars! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Rgirvan44 at 02:01, 17 March 2012 | Report This Post

RE: 21 Jump Street

I went to see this last week when I was suffering from a really horrible cold and have to say that this perked me right up. part from it being slightly over-long, there are some very funny moments throughout. Definitely worth a punt if you're struggling to find something to watch at the cinema. 3 Stars. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Adam James at 11:54, 13 March 2012 | Report This Post

RE: Channing Tatum - he's nearly 32 for pity's sake!

I'm guessing by your detailed analysis that you haven't seen it then. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by 7eke at 16:33, 12 March 2012 | Report This Post

Channing Tatum - he's nearly 32 for pity's sake!

Empire hold your head in shame for giving this 4 stars! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by gb901 at 16:08, 12 March 2012 | Report This Post

21 Jump Street

I watched 21 Jump Street at a screening in Birmingham last Tuesday and i have to say it is the funnest movie of the year so far, the performances between Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum were really good and they both had real on screen chemistry but Tatum really surprised me with his great comedic timing and by far the best performance of his career so far, no joke!! But for me the real star of the movie is Ice Cube, every time he was on screen coming out with his lines got the biggest laughs and... More

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Posted by azzman1984 at 01:57, 12 March 2012 | Report This Post

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