If it's crap ... We'll tell you
This movie is the exact definition of a double negative! Phil Lord and Chris Miller's last film was Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, an animated kids' film that turned out surprisingly well (supposedly a lot better than what the title implies). Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum couldn't be more different in terms of appearance and actual acting reputation. It's taken from a TV show in the '80s that only managed to have a serious longevity because of where one of its stars would go later on to do. It's taken nearly five years to make and it radically veers away from what the original show used to be. But when everything's taken into account and added up, the results are nothing but fulfilling.
Nothing has pleasantly surprised anybody in quite a long time. It is one of the funniest and most heartfelt high school movies since the golden days of John Hughes. It's almost shocking to see how this movie does what it does so well without even trying but once you add everything up, it's almost stupefying to know that you did not catch on to how it would work so well. Channing Tatum had impressed critics and audiences with his comedic turn in The Dilemma. Co-screenwriter Michael Bacall had gained serious credibility for co-writing Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Phil Lord and Chris Miller had made a surprisingly great animated film that dealt with a seemingly ridiculous concept. Jonah Hill has managed to build himself an incredible name and career for himself especially with his most recent Oscar nomination and the smartest way to make 21 Jump Street a hip and modern thing is to make it a comedy given the outlandish concept. It's because of all of these elements and more that this film works brilliantly.
If anyone with a brain were to seriously suggest a movie where a couple of baby-faced cops go undercover as high school students to prevent crime, they would be laughed at and told to get lost. Thankfully Jonah Hill and Michael Bacall are both brainy individuals who now how to take material like this and appropriate it to modern audiences' tastes and expectations and their take on the old TV show simply kicks ass! It's dirty, it's filthy, it's silly, it's fun, and it's hilariously violent! Yet the most surprising factor in terms of the story is that it really shows how quickly things can change in about five or six years after leaving high school and then stumbling upon it again (especially when the last of one generation is leaving and the first of a new generation begins to settle in). A good majority of the kids that I know today are in fact politically correct for the most part, against things such as homophobia and racism, open to many different kinds of cliques, environmentally concerned, and think that smart is indeed the new sexy (the toned muscles are more a preference than a requirement). The days of skating by on just looks are seeming to come to an end in certain aspects of high school life because the most popular people are the ones with great knowledge and great ambition and it with those skills specifically that this film is so funny and so entertaining.
Jonah Hill is great and hilarious as always but Channing Tatum is possibly one of the greatest things about the film. He has grown so much as an actor! It's always been evident that he's been one of the hardest working actors in Hollywood but this could be the movie that really pays off for him in a really big way because he is possibly the funniest actor in any comedy in the past couple of years. He nails every single joke and what he's been given is truly A-grade material. After seeing this film, there's no question that Channing Tatum is here to stay and as long he makes the right choices, he will be a bonafide Hollywood star for a very long time. What's more amazing than just Hill or Tatum alone is their electric chemistry. Like their characters in the film itself, they make up for each other's faults and create a buddy cop duo that would seriously give Murtaugh & Riggs, Cates & Hammond, Burnett & Lowrey, Starsky & Hutch, and Mills and Somerset all a run for their money! In fact, it wouldn't be a stretch to say that Hill and Tatum's Schmidt & Jenko have the potential to be the great buddy cop duo of the younger generation (as long as they keep it up in the sequel(s)) because their relationship is what makes this film a great one and not just a good one. Another amazing revelation to us youngsters is the Niggaz Wit Attitudes Ice Cube that we have been missing! After seeing this hardcore version of Ice Cube for the first time, I never want to the Are We There Yet? Ice Cube ever again! What he did there was shameful in comparison to what he does as Captain Dickson! He is just the very definition of cool in this movie. But aside from them, everyone at the school does an amazing job. Dave Franco is almost like a better clone of his brother and he is going to be as big if not bigger than his brother if he keeps on the right track because he's super funny in this and shockingly looking ten years younger than he actually is. Rob Riggle does what he does best and he's given a lot of stellar character and comedy to tamper with. Ellie Kemper is unbelievably funny as the film's satirically hilarious example of someone like Mary Kay Letourneau. But the most impressive person in the school group has to be Brie Larson as Molly, Schmidt's quasi-love interest. She is just utterly adorable and plays Molly in such a way that you can't help but feel good inside whenever you see her and throughout the film, we see a truly earnest and touching relationship blossom before our every eyes between the two. If anyone out of the cast besides Channing Tatum has a potentially bright future ahead of them, it's Larson. She is just utterly magnificent in the film. There's also Dakota Johnson who plays one of the other undercover cops on 21 Jump Street and she is so incredibly hot in this despite the fact that she did play a really snotty individual. She also has something special especially after noticing how different of a character she played in this film compared to her "cameo" role as Justin Timberlake's one night stand in The Social Network.
While all of these actors pull off their roles perfectly and nail most if not all of the hysterical jokes in this film, it was so great to finally see an action comedy that had some really crazy action sequences. While they may not be as thrilling or suspenseful as the ones in Lethal Weapon, they deliver whole hog on the comedy in terms of how ridiculous it is that these two cops are trying so desperately to be the bad-ass cops that we all know and love but just leave collateral damage wherever they go. These guys are initially the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern of cops but as they progress with the case involving the HFS drug at Sagen High, it really is amazing, entertaining and unbelievably hilarious to see how they do grow into the kinds of cops that could become the actual cops that they aspire to be if they put everything into it and actually brushed up on their technique. The greatest action sequence has to be an immediate call to action as they follow a gang of bikers that they ran into as park patrol and get caught up in a high-speed chase on the highway as they are wearing the most ridiculous costumes imaginable and leapfrogging from car to car. That scene is not only one of the funniest scenes in the entire film but it also sums up what is wrong with the bombastic expectations provided by buddy cop movies and that scene alone adds so much intelligent insight to the brilliant satire of it all. While there is a lot more to talk about, it would truly be a crime to go into detail about the various other jokes, homages and plot related elements because like a lot of great comedy, it relies on the element of surprise to fully deliver on all of its promise and this has to be the most surprising comedy in such a long time!
In the end, the film delivers on all three key components that make any great film work. It's intellectual in its approach of such a preposterous notion, it's genuinely emotional and heartfelt at times and it really gets you invested in the main characters, and it is unbelievably entertaining. It has not only set the comedic benchmark for this year but for the next one or two years. If any comedy is worth checking out this year, it's this one!
Rating: Full Price!!