out of Five
Running time: 109
Sharply written, frequently hilarious high school-slash-cop comedy with terrific comic performances from Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, though it could have done with a slight trim in the running time department.
What's it all about?
Directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, 21 Jump Street is a big screen version of the 1980s TV show that made Johnny Depp famous, starring Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill as Jenko and Schmidt, two L.A. cops and best friends who have to go back to high school after they're assigned to “a resurrected programme from the 80s” that involves baby-faced cops going undercover. However, times have changed since they were high school students and nerdy Schmidt finds he's suddenly in with the cool crowd (Dave Franco and Brie Larson), while ex-jock Jenko finds acceptance with the nerds and outcasts. But will they be able to find the supplier of a deadly drug before their permanently angry boss (Ice Cube as Captain Dickson) shuts them down?
Hill and Tatum make a terrific comic duo, with Hill reigning in the more obnoxious side of his screen persona to good effect and Tatum displaying hitherto unsuspected comedy skills (his supporting appearance in the otherwise execrable The Dilemma aside). They also have strong chemistry together, with the bromance angle heavily to the fore in the script (Hill's character even asks Tatum if he'll go to the prom with him).
On top of that, there's superb support from a strong comedic cast that includes Ice Cube (hilarious as sweary Captain Dickson), Parks & Recreation's Nick Offerman (as their boss), Bridesmaids' Ellie Kemper (as a teacher failing to conceal a crush on Jenko), Rob Riggle (as an obnoxious games teacher) and Dave Franco (brother of James and it shows) as the leader of the cool kids. There are also a few treats for fans of the show, in the form of various cameos, even from bit-part players.
The in-on-the-joke script (Offerman's speech about “reviving a programme from the 80s because the suits lack originality” sets the scene beautifully) is extremely well-written and maintains a pleasingly high gag rate throughout, with some hilarious one-liners and some very funny physical comedy moments (such as the duo practising being hit by a car by driving into each other). That said, 109 minutes is a little too long for a comedy and the film could have done with a slight trim, particularly during an extended highway chase sequence where the gags feel forced and don't really work.
Ignore the terrible trailers – 21 Jump Street is a hugely enjoyable, frequently hilarious comedy with a witty script and terrific comic performances from Tatum and Hill. Do more comedies, Channing Tatum.
21 Jump Street (R16)