Thursday, 9 August 2012

Film Review: 21 Jump Street

Certificate: 15 (crude and sexual content, pervasive language, drug material, teen drinking and some violence)
Directed By: Phil Lord & Chris Miller
Cast: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Brie Larson, Dave Franco, Rob Riggle, DeRay Davis, Ice Cube, Dax Flame, Chris Parnell, Ellie Kemper
Budget: $42 million
Runtime: 109 minutes
Trailer: Watch

You would think that the odd-couple cop movie doesn't have much left to offer the genre in terms of originality, but never underestimate what a touch of Jonah Hill can bring to a film. To be sure, 21 Jump Street is a delightful little package which is part police academy, part high-school comedy which makes some amusing observations particularly poignant to those of us now in our mid-twenties.

As teens Schmidt (Hill) and Jenko (Tatum) were each other's antithesis, the former your quintessential nerd and the latter your stereotypical jock. Now adults, best friends and partners in the police force, these two bumbling cops are sent back to high-school on an undercover mission to bust a drug ring. However, the dynamic duo are quick to note how different the place is since they were last there.

Yes, 21 Jump Street is your typical fish-out-of-water scenario, but what's more amusing is how it picks up on the shifts in cultural trends over the last ten years. These two young cops are barely out their teens, but in less than ten years they soon find out how what was once cool is no longer. It's a scenario any young thing might expect from their parents; asking whether Nickelback are cool, mistakingly naming every games console a Playstation and boasting to their friends what you got in your "O-Levels", but it is something you're less likely to expect from someone in their twenties. However, the sad truth is that I, as a young man in his mid-twenties, am increasingly being forced to admit that I don't have a clue anymore as to what's cool and what's not. I swore I would never let it happen, but the plight presented here by Schmidt and Jenko is one I can wholly sympathise with.

To illustrate, movies of the late nineties and early two-thousands such as American Pie or Mean Girls portrayed high-schools to be incredibly cliquey, catty places where sporty jocks and bitchy cheerleaders ruled the roost. Returning, Schmidt and Jenko find this is no longer the case; the popular kids are tech-savvy eco-warriors, politically correct to a falt. Jenko, the popular jock during his day is bewildered while Schmidt ironically finds himself in his element. What's great about how 21 Jump Street portrays this though is that it never forcefully hammers this point home, instead teasing those of us now in our twenties that we're well on our way to being the uncool archetypes of our parents we swore we'd never be.

Performances are good all round, but the dialogue is particularly sharp, featuring a plethora of sharp put-downs most enjoyably delivered by one Ice Cube. Moreover 21 Jump Street  ranges from slapstick to deliberate absurdity as the jokes never stop. The consistent stream of wisecracks, which are fortunately very funny as well, make this an easily accessible and breezy comedy. Perhaps what doesn't work so well however is the amalgamation of high-school and cop comedy in what seems to be two slightly disjointed story lines. While the two attempt to fuse, it's not particularly convincing as if to say it all feels slightly adlib. This is especially prevalent in the third act where everything seems to lose focus a little bit.

Despite being quite a chaotic affair, 21 Jump Street remains a light hearted and enjoyable entertainment. It works far better as a high-school comedy than a cop one, and it's a tad of a shame that its plot is a bit all over the place, but the laughs keep coming that you will scarcely mind.