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With: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Brie Larson, Ice Cube, Dave Franco, Rob Riggle, DeRay Davis, Dax Flame, Chris Parnell, Ellie Kemper, Jake M. Johnson, Nick Offerman, Holly Robinson Peete
Written by: Michael Bacall, based on a story by Michael Bacall, Jonah Hill, and on the TV series by Patrick Hasburgh, Stephen J. Cannell
Directed by: Phil Lord, Chris Miller
MPAA Rating: R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, drug material, teen drinking and some violence
Running Time: 109
Date: 03/12/2012

21 Jump Street (2012)

3 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Based on the late 1980s TV series that starred a young Johnny Depp, the new movie 21 Jump Street might have been yet another example of Hollywood avoiding new ideas and lazily recycling old ones.

Fortunately, the new movie is well aware of this trend, and says so, right in an early line of dialogue.

This small gesture is enough to raise the movie to an entirely different level of awareness.

21 Jump Street tells the ludicrous story of undercover cops infiltrating high school.

Though their own high school careers (seen in flashback) were not so hot, stud Jenko (Channing Tatum) and nerd Schmidt (Jonah Hill) are now best friends and partners on the Metropolitan City police force.

Assigned to the Jump Street program, their mission is to uncover the source of a new drug called HFS (which stands for "Holy" and then two words that can't be repeated here).

The twist is that their identities are switched, and the shy Schmidt ends up in drama class while the not-too-bright Jenko fraternizes with the AP chemistry nerds.

Additionally, high school has changed: now kids are "green" and tolerant, and frown upon arrogant jocks. In other words, the tactics that once made Jenko popular no longer work, and Schmidt's nerdiness becomes an unexpected asset.

Basically the movie's theme is that, no matter how crazy or willing we are, the world simply doesn't operate like a cop movie (or cop TV show) says it should.

With this complex, post-modern, one-upmanship of life vs. entertainment, the movie creates endless opportunities for jokes.

These cops show up to a chase sequence wearing the most hysterical outfits imaginable, bracing themselves for car explosions that never happen.

The characters don't even learn any lessons, except maybe how to remain mismatched buddies.

By continually thwarting expectations, by teasing and upending conventions, and by remaining funny all the way up to (and during) the end credits, 21 Jump Street becomes an honest-to-goodness anarchic comedy.

Co-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller previously made the animated Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.

Thus 21 Jump Street marks the third recent live-action movie made by animators, after Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol and John Carter.

Perhaps animation is fertile training ground, breeding a tougher work ethic, with more attention to detail.

Indeed, it probably demands rigorous planning to take such a dumb concept and turn it into something so effortlessly brilliant.

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