Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum have to be one of the most unlikely comedy double acts in recent years. On the one hand you have Tatum, a big screen tough guy who can get away with doing a love story every now and then, and on the other you have Hill, a comedy actor still struggling to make himself comfortable in Hollywood. In 21 Jump Street though, the two blend together with sublime comedy effect.
Hill and Tatum play Schmidt and Jenko, who are partners on the police force. They’re best friends, but when they were at high school it was a very different story. Now the two police officers are given a special assignment to go undercover as high school students to try and bring down a drug ring.
For those of a certain age, 21 Jump Street is actually based on an American TV series from the 80s, which coincidentally launched the career of Johnny Depp. This doesn’t really mean much though, as Jonah Hill and Michael Bacall write a hilarious script that stands up well by itself. In fact it does more than stand up, it runs around screaming like a crazy person. If we’re to look at this film in terms of plotting and structure, then this film is a total mess. But of course this is a comedy so the only question that matters is – is it funny? And the answer is a resounding yes. Hill and Bacall throw gag after gag at the audience at a ridiculously quick rate, so naturally some of them won’t get much of a reaction, but those that do generate a laugh will be well worth the wait.
The big surprise here though is Channing Tatum. Coming into this movie, you would be forgiven for expecting him to look like he’s in too deep, and overacting to try and make a gag work. Tatum actually takes to comedy like a natural, taking it very easy and allowing the material to speak for itself. Hill once again puts in a great comedy performance, and the two together make an unlikely comedic duo.
What’s the most appealing about 21 Jump Street though is its bravery. The high school comedy genre has been used a few times, and even attempting to make something new out of that is commendable. But here we have a film that’s experimenting with the whole idea of creating complete and utter madness, and seeing what happens. Sure, it is a little hit-and-miss at times, and it does lose its way towards the end, but that doesn’t prevent it from being one of the best comedies of the year so far.
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