21 Jump Street

Cops as buddies! - Jonah Hill's raucous reboot isn't a loving tribute but an occasionally savage send-up

21 Jump Street


The original 21 Jump Street was not a milestone of television history; it was a silly, flashy show filled with attractive young actors, one of whom (Johnny Depp) went on to major stardom. The premise, about cops posing undercover as high school kids was basically a rehash of the Mod Squad, and no more plausible in the '80s as it had been in the '60s. So fittingly, this raucous, slapdash, reboot is not so much a loving tribute as it is an occasionally savage send-up, not just of the source material, but of any buddy cop scenario ever filmed.

Jonah Hill produced, co-wrote and stars, and his comedic DNA is smeared over every gooey frame, which amounts to a flick that holds just about nothing sacred. Hill's sensibility involves a mixture of oafish clumsiness, social awkwardness and, most importantly, dick jokes, dick jokes and dick jokes. Many punch lines involve someone getting faux humped, struck in the groin, or threatened with forcible oral sex — with a sort of paranoid frat guy squeamishness at the mere suggestion of anything gay. It's immature, rude and sometimes quite funny, at least until the same gag makes a fourth or fifth lap around the track.

The inescapable Channing Tatum co-stars, though his beefy, thick-skulled obliviousness actually works in his favor in comedy, instead of say, tenderly romancing Rachel McAdams. Tatum is game, and his jocky exuberance is winning, though when playing off Hill's spastic clowning, there are stretches where nobody bothers to be the straight man. Like the Farrell-Wahlberg romp The Other Guys, spoofing is Job One here, occasionally at the expense of believability or consistent characterization.

As high school rivals turned police academy BFFs, Tatum's muscular, unrefined Jenko and Hill's savvier, flabbier nerd Schmidt, are screw-ups as beat cops, but their youthfulness sees them assigned to an undercover unit "down on Jump Street," run by a grouchy Captain (Ice Cube), and run out of an abandoned Korean church called "Aroma of Christ." Their mission is to infiltrate a clique that's dealing a dangerous new designer drug. In a sly comment on the weird new world of millennial teens, the gawky, ironically witty Schmidt is a hit with the popular hipsters, and sporty Jenko is considered square, and banished to hang with the chemistry club and AV dweebs.

Along with the various cameos, winks and Easter eggs for the Gen X crowd that actually remembers the old 21 Jump Street, there's enough raunch and chaos to make it a bit inappropriate for the tweens who likely want to see it.

This is fun distraction, but every bit as disposable as that other Jump Street icon, Richard Grieco. —Corey Hall