Whenever we as human beings are privy to something truly extraordinary, something that ignites an emotional power we usually only get glimmers of, we effusively try to convey the minutiae of that moment to others. 21 Jump Street is just such an occasion. With every new scene, every new cut, something hilariously brilliant and unexpected is lurking around the frame. Your throat’s going to go raw from cheering and your hands sore from clapping. This is what re-make dreams are made of.
Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill play a pair of cop losers (Tatum as the dumb jock, Hill the nerd) whose deficiencies lead them back into high school as undercover agents trying to bust a drug ring.
The plot summary alone is enough to make you roll your eyes, but this is a film aware of its absurd premise, and spends most of its time laughing at itself. It therefore comes as no surprise that the masterminds behind this concoction of fried gold are none other than the Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs directing duo, Phil Lord and Chris Miller. Their comedic sensibilities bloom in this transition from animated to live-action, with the pair continuing to take the piss out of their characters whenever possible. John McClane badassery it ain’t – until the fumbling cops have earned their Die Hard merit badges. That’s when things get off the fuckin’ chain.
Tatum and Hill are given free range to play and bond, thanks to a script from Scott Pilgrim vs the World scribe Michael Baccal. The antiquated archetypes for high schools (jocks rule, nerds get their asses kicked) are updated in a way that offers new territory for Hill and Tatum’s relationship. It’s hard to cite another friendship with this much heart; the pair compliment each other in a way reminiscent of partnerships of the domestic order. It also stands as one of the few male friendships that are predicated upon building each other up instead of regularly tearing each other down (the latter, I would guess, is to offset any anxieties about the relationship being homosexual). Riggs/Murtough, Tango/Cash, Nick Frost/Simon Pegg – Tatum and Hill can now be added to that list.
There’s nothing about 21 Jump Street that I can point to as flawed. A wink (and a slight “fuck you” to the studios) deals with the complaint of the film’s status as a re-make early on, and the cast and crew of 21 Jump Street invite us into their carnival of comedy. Filmmaker and audience alike are on the same page, allowing it to open up the laughter typhoon as they monkey with the tropes of the cop genre. The H.F.S. drug sequences are sure to be cited for years to come and the veritable parade of familiar faces (I’m not spoiling it) just adds to the party atmosphere.
21 Jump Street will easily be one of the best films of 2012 and will have a long life as a cult film in the same vein as Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Dare I say it? Yes – it might even surpass the brilliant work of Edgar Wright. Wright definitely makes films for movie fans, but 21 Jump Street directors Lord and Miller have an impressive grasp of the dramatic beneath all that cackling.
Many of the comedies produced in the United States are overly reliant on language to bust an audience’s gut, but 21 Jump Street breaks out the cinema tool kit to provide an array of comedy via edits, physical comedy, and the verbal. The resulting layered cake of comedy is a deliciously self-aware, smartly written film that doesn’t forget about its narrative arc. 21 Jump Street is made for film fans and you’d be a bit of an idiot to refuse its advances.