If the formula for 21 Jump Street, from directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller (they previously directed Cloudy With Chance of Meatballs together) seems familiar, that’s because it should. 25 years ago, Fox Television wanted to show they had an edge and they found it with 21 Jump Street, a gritty drama about cops going undercover at local high schools. It launched the career of Johnny Depp and managed to last four seasons. The same year that Jump Street debuted, another gritty television cop show was being reimagined on the big screen.
That was the Dan Akyroyd, Tom Hanks version of Dragnet. Lord and Miller (sounds like a department store, eh?) have managed to raise the bar that was set high by the film version of Dragnet, delivering laughs, explosions and a lot of F-bombs along the way.
Starring Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, the film opens as the duo are in high school themselves and they are clearly not friends. Fast forward six years and both are recruits in the Metropolitan Police Department’s Police Academy. Hill’s “Schmidt” is great with academics and horrible at things physical, while Tatum’s “Jenko” is a master of the physical and a complete bust in the classroom. They form a partnership as recruits and manage to push each other through to graduation and their first assignment.
Nowhere near exciting, their first duty as bicycle patrol officers leads them to their first arrest. An arrest that is flawed because Jenko failed to properly advise the suspect of his rights. So they are sent down to 21 Jump Street, home of an undercover unit run by “Captain Dickson” (Ice Cube), housed in an abandoned church. If you’re a resident of Los Angeles and you’ve driven through Koreatown more than once, the church may well look familiar. Dickson wants his two newest undercovers to go to a local high school where a new drug has hit the campus and keep that drug from spreading elsewhere.
From here, Lord and Miller, working from a strong script by Michael Bacall (with help from Hill on the story), are off and running. This time things are different for our heroes. Jenko, who was a ’cool kid’ in high school ends up being ostracized from that group. Meanwhile, Schmidt, who was an outcast in his high school days, gets in quickly with those same ’cool kids’ who want nothing to do with Jenko. The reason Schmidt gets in and Jenko is left out has a lot to do with the fact that the duo are undercover as brothers, but Jenko mixed up their first names upon arrival and he’s stuck with Schmidt’s undercover identity and vice versa.
Did I mention lots of F-bombs? Good. There’s also a wild party that while not up to Project X standards, certainly manages to upset a few people. Schmidt and Jenko are willing to do whatever it takes to discover who is supplying this new drug. There are chases, and plenty of explosions. There are also plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, which as always, is the acid test of any comedy.
Definitely worth checking out, even if only to see something near the ending that comes close to crossing the gross-out line most will not venture beyond.