Movie Review: 21 Jump Street

By Stephen Rebello

Recipe for mass slaughter or hilarious bromance?

Directors: Phil Lord, Chris Miller

MPAA Rating: R

Studio: Sony Pictures

How does this sound for a sure-fire recipe for mass slaughter at the multiplex?  Remake an R-rated feature film of the cheesy ‘80s TV high school undercover cop drama that launched the career of Johnny Depp. Then cast it with Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, and have it directed by the guys who made kids laugh with Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.  What do you get?  Lo and behold, 21 Jump Street turns out to be pushy, dumb-smart, start-to-finish crazily enjoyable, merrily gross, subversive, good-spirited and often hysterically funny.  So there.

Phil Lord and Chris Miller direct with snap and insight an unapologetically filthy, knowing, meta-savvy screenplay by Michael Bacall (Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World) based on a story by Bacall and Hill.  The inspired foolishness casts two unlikely lead actors—Hill as an awkward, brainy mess, and Tatum as a grey matter-challenged hunk—as guys from the same high school who meet again in police academy. The two slowly discover each other’s strengths as they go undercover at the “Aroma of Christ” Korean Church to bust the supplier of a synthetic drug peddled by Eric Molson (Dave Franco).  In one flat-out hilarious sequence, our heroes must take the drug to calm the suspicions of the skeevy dealer. Watching Tatum and Hill pass through such stages of consciousness as the “Giggles,” to “Insane Overconfidence” and “Holy Motherfucking Shit,” you’re not only rocked with laughter, you also know you’re witnessing a destined-to-be-classic movie moment played brilliantly by both actors.

Tatum and Hill are exceptional together from the first scene to the last. They strut such cocky, impressive comic skill and timing that they nail their every moment together, including those that show how touchingly lost their characters would be without each other.  They’re so fantastic together that they even manage to give the dreaded bromance a good name again.  Valuable support comes from supporting goofsters like Franco, Brie Larson, Rob Riggle, Ice Cube, Nick Offerman and Ellie Kemper. 21 Jump Street is so flipping goofy and good-natured that it ought to remind audiences that happy surprises, let alone miracles, can occur in what may seem like the least likely places.

About the Author

Playboy Contributing Editor Stephen Rebello has written many Playboy Interviews and 20 Questions features. He is the author of such books as the notorious Bad Movies We Love (with Edward Margulies) and Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, the latter of which has inspired a dramatic feature film set for production in 2012. His most recent Playboy Interviews include Josh Brolin and Cameron Diaz.


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