New York Magazine Movie Review: Centered on youthful cops working undercover in high schools, the eighties Fox TV series 21 Jump Street had a gritty vibe (Fox was new and looking to distinguish itself from the big three networks) and scripts that were painfully earnest, with Johnny Depp groping his way toward a standard Method juvenile career before cultivating late-Brando-style weirdness.
The movie, starring Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, spoofs the series and plays the premise for laughs. It has a bad, slapstick first act but by midpoint becomes strangely compelling, tapping into the fantasy of reliving one’s high-school years (which did a number on us all) and getting it right. After adjusting to the Zeitgeist zigs and zags of the seven years since they graduated, fat Jonah earns a place with the popular kids and develops self-esteem, while dumb hunk Channing settles in with the science nerds and learns to tap phones. It’s an agreeable shambles. The best scenes feature an anti-bullying environmentalist drug dealer played by Dave Franco, who’s like a cross between his weirdo brother James and fifties Method neurotics like Montgomery Clift. I can’t wait for his next movie.
Not a bad review start:
And Stephen Salto says that my cousin Phil Lord and his buddy Chris Miller are really, really good at this "directing" s---:
SXSW ’12 Review: “21 Jump Street” Plays Like Gangbusters: None of this should probably work as well as it does, but the chemistry between Hill and Tatum is arguably even more palpable than when Hill partnered with Michael Cera in “Superbad” and Lord and Miller, who last directed “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs,” bring the same kind of energy and enthusiasm that made the animated film such a welcome surprise. Though Ice Cube regales in saying the “F-word” more than he ever did in N.W.A. as the duo’s commanding officer and there’s politically incorrect gags at every turn, the humor is refreshingly mischievous rather than mean-spirited with two actors at its center who appear to genuinely like each other and are somewhat in awe of what the other is capable of.
The film is also generous to its supporting cast, giving Cube a chance to remind audiences who he was before all those family-friendly movies and allows nice character beats for its younger cast including Brie Larson as Schmidt’s eventual object of affection, Dave Franco as the drug ring’s front and Dax Flame as Jenko’s lab partner. Every character in the film has an extra bit of dimension, which shouldn’t come as a surprise for anyone who followed the directors’ previous work in television on such shows as “Clone High” and the early years of “How I Met Your Mother.” But it’s especially impressive within the world “21 Jump Street” exists in, a place that acknowledges its ridiculous origins by being more ridiculous and taking tropes of any number of genres – action, comedy – and twisting them just slightly for maximum effect.
What keeps the characters grounded, even as the muscle-bound Tatum struts around in shirts that read “Beauty is Boring” and Cube’s Captain Dickson tells his charges to “embrace your stereotypes,” is the affection the creative team has for everyone and everything on screen. With the beats of each character and plot point worked out so thoroughly, every scene is as potentially explosive, either in hysterics or otherwise, because it somehow finds a very relatable core, be it an epic car chase where Jenko and Schmidt have to drive a driver’s ed car with two steering wheels or the more subtle way the two forge relationships inside the school. Sure, references to “Glee” and Robert Downey Jr.’s drug years may not hold up quite as well in 20 years, but in an era of disposable pop culture, “21 Jump Street” is anything but, likely to be namechecked for a lot longer.