Ten minutes into 21 Jump Street, I got a feeling of foreboding that I had made a terrible mistake. Why wasn’t I in the theatre next door watching Meryl sink her teeth into The Iron Lady, or a few doors down soaking up the environmental parable of The Lorax? Something classy, you know? The previews had already made me cranky and uneasy. (“These are not our people,” I muttered to my boyfriend as the crowd roared at the latest repugnant Adam Sandler preview.)The last thing I wanted to do on a Friday was watch some bros jerk around in a dilapidated action-comedy cop film.
But then Channing Tatum wildly somersaulted through a gong and I choked on my Booster Juice, giggling. Damn you, Jump Street! There’s nothing harder for a film snob than shoving away her snide judgements to admit something dumb is really funny.
Resurrected from the 80s TV series starring a pre-Pirates Johnny Depp, the plot tells a story of two young cops who get put on undercover duty in a high school to bust a drug ring.
If these two 30-plus actors can portray high schoolers, I’ve plausibly got a shot at my own Toddlers and Tiaras episode. Also, I refuse to believe that any high school is that badass – admittedly, my own school stood in the middle of a former cow field, but I was never offered anything stronger than expired Tylenol 3 despite my penchant for reading Hunter S. Thompson at lunch. I suppose it is feasible that the German exchange student was really a DEA agent – as Jonah Hill’s weight loss has taught us, anything is possible!
What’s great about Jump Street is that the movie doesn’t take the predictable route that is usually determined by a high-school setting. Ten years has changed that culture into an unfamiliar wilderness – hipsters in ugly dresses now dominate the hallways with their trendy environmental concern and comic book references.
Tatum’s character, Jenko, is unnerved that he can’t gain access to the in-crowd by calling things gay and blames “f*cking Glee” for making tolerance cool. I personally blame Glee for bringing back sweater vests.
The film is freewheeling and idiotically joyous in scenes where the cops raid their evidence room for weed to gain popularity, and Hill snags the main role in a Peter Pan musical. Tatum proves that he’s got comedic chops that are wasted in Nicholas Sparks dreck like The Vow (when would Sparks ever have a character blow up a van of chickens?) and his dime-sized eyes don’t really scream “romantic hero” in the first place.
Most cop movies are metaphors for repressed masculinity, but this film smartly acknowledges the sexual tension between the kind of men who professionally use firearms as penis substitutions.
“Let’s make a baby!” screamed Hill as he and his partner planned to take down some drug lords. The director should have focused on this banter and dumped most action scenes. When will directors learn that unless all parties are nude, shootouts that go on for more than 60 seconds are just plain boring?
Overall, 21 Jump Street starts slow, is obnoxious, borderline homophobic and unnecessarily profane, but surprisingly enjoyable.
It’s a karate chop to the head of enthusiastic shenanigans and it made me glad that I didn’t stay home to eat Thai food and watch Downton Abbey reruns.
Actually, it’s starting to become apparent why no one offered me drugs in high school.
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