21 Jump Street
The jury is still out on Channing Tatum. Believable when kicking someone's head in (A Guide To Recognising Your Saints, Fighting, Haywire), not so much when he's asked to be the romantic sort (Dear John, The Vow), you can count on one hand how many times he's attempted straight up comedy. The man has genuine charisma but it slips every now and then; this remake of the TV series that set Johnny Depp on the road to superstardom sees Tatum veering from perfect comic timing to poor delivery of gags that go clang. Loudly. When he is on form, though, he and Hill cook up a heady brew.
Back in highschool in 2005, jock Jenko (Tatum, sporting a grunge haircut that rather makes him look like the bully from 80s high school comedy Three O'Clock High) and brain Schmidt (a slim Jonah Hill) were the bully and the bullied respectively. Now the two are in the police force and, after patching up – Jenko helps Schmidt with the gunplay, Schmidt gives Jenko a dig out with exams – they are assigned to the precinct at 21 Jump Street. Captain Dickson (Ice Cube) has a special detail for them: they are to pose as highschool students to root out the dealer of a new potent drug that has hit campus…
With a different tone to the series (think The Other Guys meets Back To School) 21 Jump Street can call itself the most successful of the 80s TV series adaptations; of course when it's up against the silly The Dukes Of Hazzaard, the all too serious Miami Vice and the 'What? What do you mean they're not using the van?' A-Team the competition is slim. Knowing jokes run amok: Hollywood are recycling old ideas because they don't have any new ones, Ice Cube's clichéd angry black police captain and actors playing students always look too old are all raised. But that's like bringing attention to the hole in the ass of your pants and pretending to be cool with it before someone else does and mocks you accordingly. With these tongue-in-cheek asides, 21 Jump Street wants to have its cake and eat it by being a straight buddy action comedy and a parody of buddy action comedies; the back and forth transition can be clunky.
We like to think we've matured since school but 21 Jump Street plays around with the idea that we're just as childish and awkward as our seventeen-year-old selves. Trying too hard to fit in, again, Schmidt finds himself ostracised, again, while Jenko's easy stroll back into the cool crowd proves to be harder than first thought when he finds being cool now is to be caring, eco-loving and open-minded. On his first day he punches a black gay kid and is seen hanging his bag off one shoulder - so uncool - and it's downhill from there.
Playing it less aggressively than usual, Hill is fine but there is the Tatum problem. Hilarious when he tries to make himself, and Hill, vomit after swallowing the designer drug, followed by his stoned bombardment of the music class, it's when he's asked to ad-lib hiss lines that he comes up short. Far too often the camera stays on him, willing to say something funny but he doesn't.
Zippy and fun, apart from a few clangers 21 Jump Street is a winner.
Story by Gavin Burke | 15:04 | Wednesday 22nd August 2012 | DVD review
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