In this comedic remake of the popular 1980s show of the same name, former high school nerd Morton Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and former jock bully Greg Jenko (Channing Tatum) have just graduated from the police academy and are prepared for badass excitement. Unfortunately, after a failed arrest attempt while on park duty, the two are assigned to an undercover job at the titular address where Captain Dickson (Ice Cube) enrolls them in a local high school in order to locate the supplier of a new synthetic drug. As Schmidt becomes popular and befriends the school dealer (Dave Franco), Greg becomes a nerdy outcast after failing to adjust to the new version of high school, which leads to confrontation, drug trips, and an explosion or two.
The main reason this comedy manages to work is just from the sheer amount of jokes that are thrown at the audience. Whether it be a quick character joke or an absurdist surreal image, directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord are dedicated to making everyone laugh in the audience. If one joke falls flat for you, within a fraction of a second, you’ll have five different funny jokes thrown at you, one of which you are bound to like. They used a similar technique with their last more family friendly effort Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. While Meatballs did succeed more at the joke-to-laughs ratio, Jump Street still manages to throw enough material at us to score quite a few laughs. Plus, this has the additional layer of satire in terms of poking fun at the nature of Hollywood’s remake cycle, which leads to some hysterical jokes that break the fourth wall. The film’s mistakes are on a behind-the-scenes level (mostly involving the clearly poor ADR/editing mistakes and the love story that’s written quite awkwardly), but the constant humor barrage tends to make up for it.
The cast element is essential, given that a buddy comedy hinges on the leads. Luckily, Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum manage to have a great chemistry in terms of a comedic duo, though Hill manages to pick up when Tatum occasionally slacks. The best stuff with Tatum involves his general separation with the new generation of high schoolers, which is where his meaty build, large shoulders, and stilted delivery manage to work in his favor. Plus, there’s some nice help from a great comedic supporting cast that includes Nick Offerman, Rob Riggle, Ice Cube, Ellie Kemper, Brie Larson and Dave Franco. The film also has a cameo or two from some very familiar faces that I won’t spoil (hint: it’s not Richard Grieco; I know, so disappointing).
While a few technical gaffes may pop up and distract on occasion, 21 Jump Street is still a consistently funny and well shot action comedy that will likely make anyone laugh at some point. It may not appease the hardcore fans of the old show, but it’s still one of the superior TV to film adaptations out there. Then again, when the competition includes The Dukes of Hazard and Land of the Lost, that’s not saying much.