Back-To-School Month: "21 Jump Street" Review

Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures

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Back-To-School Month: "21 Jump Street" Review

Rating: R (crude sexual content, drug material, teen drinking, pervasive language, violence)
Length: 112 minutes
Release Date: March 16, 2012
Directed By: Phil Lord, Chris Miller
Genre: Action, Comedy, Crime

"21 Jump Street" is a 2013 film based on the classic television series of the same name. The film stars Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum as Schmidt and Jenko, two rookie cops who go undercover to break up a drug ring selling synthetic drugs to high school students. Schmidt and Jenko were classmates at the local high school, where Jenko ruled the halls as a buff jock and Schmidt hid from the limelight as a short, geeky outcast. These unlikely best friends worked their way up the ranks of the police academy, and the film begins when they are offered their first big assignment. Because both men are fresh out of school and still look fairly young, they are chosen to go undercover as students at their old school.

There's nothing quite like going back to high school, as Schmidt and Jenko soon find out. The friends are prepared to deal with a modern version of the same school they went to, but they're in for a shocking surprise. Things have changed considerably in the short time that Schmidt and Jenko have been out in the adult world. While Jenko once enjoyed instant popularity due to his looks, he now finds himself at the bottom of the totem pole in a more socially conscious school. On the other hand, Schmidt, who was once an outcast because of his nerdy ways, finds his personality surprisingly in style thanks to the new generation's preference for geek chic. With their roles reversed, Jenko and Schmidt get more involved in their high school experience than their mission and find themselves woefully distracted.

Meanwhile, someone in the local high school is making and distributing a dangerous synthetic drug. Schmidt and Jenko must overcome their relived high school drama and find a way to stop this underground drug ring before their new friends get pulled into the fray. Time will tell whether the two have really grown up enough to be able to handle their first major mission as police officers. "21 Jump Street" stays true to all the elements that made the original show a cult classic while adding its own unique spin. The film is certainly more appealing to modern audiences than the television show thanks to its focus on the latest technology and social trends.

Jonah Hill is known for playing lovable nerds, and Schmidt is no exception. His character is extremely relatable to anyone who wasn't part of the in-crowd during high school, and it's understandable that he initially gets caught up in his newfound popularity. Hill delivers his lines with deadpan precision, never missing a beat in his banter with Jenko. Although the film character is considerably more suave than his television counterpart, Schmidt still has all the awkward charm fans of the television came to love. Meanwhile, Channing Tatum plays Jenko with the perfect amount of heart and arrogance. Jenko has always gotten his way, breezing through the popularity contest of life. His return to high school marks the first time he's actually had to work to get people to like him. The experience spurs the realization that he needs to work on more than just his tan and muscles if he's going to build meaningful relationships.

As much as "21 Jump Street" is a police comedy, it's also a coming-of-age story, although that coming of age just happens to come a few years later than usual for Jenko and Schmidt. Both men learn some of the tough but valuable lessons that they missed in high school and that will serve them well in their adult professional lives. Both are forced to reevaluate their friendship as their roles are reversed. Jenko has always relied on Schmidt for the brains, while Schmidt has always relied on Jenko's charisma. When their relationship is tested, both are forced to look inside themselves and call on qualities they didn't know they had.

"21 Jump Street" is a fast-paced action comedy that delivers on laughs and heartwarming moments. Hill and Tatum make a hilarious duo, and their onscreen chemistry carries the film through its main plot points. Their high school social antics are almost as interesting as their quest to track down the mysterious drug dealer, so the film has plenty of intriguing plot elements to hold viewers' attention throughout the film. The comedy is perfectly timed and fresh as well as considerably edgier than the humor of the series. Fans of the original show and newcomers alike will enjoy this updated take on a buddy cop classic.

Stars: 3.5 of 5