21 Jump Street (2012) – Film Review

A film that swings wildly from sweet bromance to silly farce

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21 Jump Street began life as a TV show that ran from 1987 to 1991 and starred Johnny Depp as a member of an undercover team specialising in youth crime.  In 2012 the show was reimagined as a movie by directing team Phil Lord and Chris Miller probably best known for The Lego Movie (2014).  In this incarnation we have two young incompetent newly minted members of the police force, Jonah Hill (Schmidt) and Channing Tatum (Jenko), who are sent to 21 Jump Street (an abandoned church) to join an under cover team and find themselves going back to high school.  Their mission is to infiltrate a drugs gang distributing a powerful new agent to its students but find themselves having to confront some of their past demons as well.

The movie is set up as an opposites attract comedy bringing together the popular jock (Tatum) and the slightly chubby nerd (Hill).  I found the premise of the film intriguing enough, even if it was not entirely original, because the going back to school vibe lent some depth to the plot and allowed for some character development. There is a pleasant additional twist with their identities being mixed up by the school so they had to take classes they were poorly suited to and they get to learn new skills.  They find a new appreciation for each others strengths and weaknesses although there is plenty of time for conflict and stepping on each others toes through the investigation.

To repeat myself slightly I was on-board with the story but there a number of things that didn’t feel right.  The tone of the film is inconsistent to put it mildly swinging from sentimental budding bromance to crude comedy.  The plausibility of the film was undermined early on when we are asked to believe that Tatum’s character has made it through training and employment in the police force without being able to recite the Miranda Rights to an arrested suspect.  We are also asked to accept that despite meeting the same suspects multiple times they aren’t recognised as cops.  There is a slightly creepy undertone with the budding relationship between Hills character and student called Molly (Brie Larson).  Hill is supposedly in his mid-twenties so if we assume Milly is 18 then a relationship is not out of the question but under the circumstances it is a little off putting so best not to think too hard.

The ultimate test of a comedy is to ask oneself if I laughed … well no, not once.  Humour is subjective to an extent but I found 21 Jump Street a little too infantile and silly.  My willingness to suspend disbelief in some of the plot was tested a little too far which is unfortunate because I think there was plenty of potential.  My rating 2/5.

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