Diehard fans of the classic 80's TV show 21 Jump Street will probably be disappointed in the 21st century film adaptation. The film is a screwball comedy. Apart from the general premise, it's completely different from the television show; although it does pay a few well-timed homages. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as two goofball LAPD rookies. They're so inept as bicycle cops, they're pulled from active duty and given a last shot to save their jobs. A drug called 'Holy Sh*t' has killed a local high schooler. The pair are assigned to go undercover at this school to find the source of the drug and prevent it from becoming an epidemic. Ice Cube co-stars as their profane and frustrated captain.
What makes this film funny is the classic fish out of water scenario. Hill and Tatum think they know what's cool in high school, but are completely suprised what modern teenagers are into. Hill's nerdy affability is actually en vogue. He becomes the popular kid, while Tatum's machismo brands him an instant loser. The pair struggle to exist in the new paradigm and living together with Hill's parents. They have great chemistry and pull off some of the sillier antics with ease. They are entirely believable in the situation, making the most of high school's foibles.
Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller bring a disctinct look to 21 Jump Street. The pair had no live action experience. Their previous effort was the very funny and creative animated film, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. It's difficult to bring animated comic sensibility to a live action feature, but these guys actually succeed. 21 Jump Street flows well with a few animated scenes that are drop down hilarious. These were totally unexpected, so are that much more interesting because it's done well.
I though the film fell apart somewhat in the third act. This is where Hollywood demands some sort of action-packed climax. Totally overdone and gimmicky here. The comic timing and cleverness is lost in a hail of unneccessary gunfire. Let's also not forget the requisite chase scene in every buddy cop film since the dawn of time. Formula kills films and the ending here could have been vastly better done. I'll chalk that up to the suits at the studio.
21 Jump Street is the brainchild of lead actor and executive producer Jonah Hill. It's very much his baby and he gives it tlc. His droll delivery coupled with Tatum's physical performance makes for good laughs. While we've seen this buddy cop premise before, it's done well here and is very entertaining. I do hope they don't get too much flack for being so different than the source material.