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Grab Bag Review: ’21 Jump Street’ Is A Re-imagining You Should Not Dismiss

Did you dismiss 21 Jump Street because you thought it was going to be another 80′s remake that would only spell disaster in the theater? Well you would be dead wrong and would have missed one of the best comedies since Bridesmaids. I was definitely a little dismissive myself when I heard that Jonah Hill was helping to write a remake or re-imagining of 21 Jump Street. I was never really a fan of the show, but I’m still one of those who is against remaking movies, cartoons or TV shows from the past into something new in the 21st century. The first trailer that came out, I was still on the fence. It wasn’t until I saw the RedBand trailer that I was really sold on seeing this film.

So, how much did 21 Jump Street borrow from the show? Not too much. Outside of the general cops going undercover at a High School, everything else was just classic comedy. I honestly think they could have named this anything else outside of 21 Jump Street and would have had a few more people in the seats. I think Jonah Hill was hoping that the name would bring people to the theater, but I really think it confused people on the premise of the film. Hearing interviews with Hill, he spent most of those interviews letting people know that he wasn’t playing a character from the original TV show, or casting others in those roles, or that it was anything at all like the show. So why name a movie after a TV show if it’s supposedly nothing like the TV show? I don’t know. It made sense to Jonah Hill, and it got him some good cameos from the original show. But, the comedy is what made the movie great, not the name of the film.

So here is the basic story. Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) are old high school opposites who meet up after joining the police force and become two extremely terrible cops, and friends. The two are sent to join an undercover unit to pose as high school students and discover the dealer and supplier of a new synthetic drug called H.F.S (a.k.a. Holy Fucking Shit). Schimdt and Jenko end up taking on the opposite identity they were assigned, which places Schmidt in Drama and Track, and places Jenko in AP Chemistry. Schimdt befriends the cool kids and Jenko is now the outsider hanging with the geeky kids.

Jonah Hill is his typical self in this film. If you are a fan of his work, then you won’t be disappointed. I guess I could consider myself a fan. I don’t think there is a role that Hill has played that I haven’t liked or found extremely funny. He has a quick wit, and impeccable timing. But, Channing Tatum really stole the show in some of the scenes. I am not a fan of Tatum. I have never found him to be a great actor. Maybe it was time to take him out of the drama and get him in the comedy. It paid off in this film. If Tatum were to play another role like this, I would see that film. Hill and Tatum fed off each other perfectly and brought some great comedy to the screen. Oh, and James Franco’s younger brother Dave Franco is in the film…pretty much a spitting image.

If you’re looking for a game changer or something new to the genre, this isn’t going to be that film. There are plenty of cliches in this movie, and they do their best to play them down. Schmidt is the high school geek who finally gets the chance to hang with the cool kids, and Jenko is the over confident jock who expects to walk back into high school and dominate the school, again. Watching Jenko’s cocky attitude backfire brings some of the best comedic moments to the film. There are only a few lulls in the comedy throughout the film. And most of them were towards the end. They tried to make this a bit of an action film in the third act, but it didn’t really work. Even though they directly call out the fact that it isn’t working, it still didn’t fit. The third act climax gave some great surprises, but fell a little flat, especially for the story. Really though, this is a comedy through and through. Lot’s of laughs, lot’s of great jokes and a ton of rewatch potential…which for me is always what makes a great comedy in my book.

Don’t wait to rent this, go out and see it in the theater. You will not be disappointed. Keep your eyes out for the cameos, some of them are pretty quick and you don’t see them coming. If the name of the film is holding you back, then just call is something else like “Two Cops Go Back To School” or “The 40 Year Old Undercover High Schoolers” and go see this movie. In fact, tell me in the comments what you would have called this movie instead of 21 Jump Street.

4 bags

About the author

Michael Cantrell

Film enthusiast and observer of miscellaneous web findings. Living and working in the Inland Empire, Southern California. Acquired a Bachelor's degree in Television/Film, which is sitting in a file cabinet hidden from the world. General film interests are with independent films, comedies, science fiction and drama. Contributor over at http://whennerdsattack.com

  • thesoymachine

    I will probably give this a try when it hits the cheap theater just for a some laughs. However, I’m not a Jonah Hill or Channing Tatum fan so I don’t know if the comedy will still be there for me. It’s a good premise for a movie though (if you disregard the floppy remake angle like you said).

    • grabbagcinema

      It’s worth the cheap theater. I firmly hold to the fact that they should have named it something else and got away from the title association.

  • http://www.top10films.co.uk Dan

    Blimey, I’m surprised by the positivity. Excellent review by the way but when I watched the trailer I thought it looked awful. But then again I thought the same about Wanderlust and everyone says it is a lot of fun.

    • grabbagcinema

      Wanderlust was a funny film. Comedy is subjective. But I always walk away satisfied if a comedy is highly quotable. And this one is. Check it if you can.

  • James Fitzpatrick

    Im not going to lie, kind of upset that I traded this movie for that flop-fest “The Lorax” however I quite agree with your review. I don’t know why they called it 21 Jump Street either because beyond the premise was nothing like the show (me on the other hand was a fan of the original). I thought it was funny and had a change of mind once I got over my belief that if they re-did the concept it should be serious…but I can admit I was wrong and awesome, funny movie.

  • Kirrrst10

    Loooovvvveeeddd this movie! Super funny and to my surprise, Channing Tatum did not ruin this film for me (not a fan). It was fun too see Channing take a role where he was able to point fun at the type-casted role he usually gets aka annoyingly perfect. Jonah Hill was hysterical as usual and even though there was a certain familiarity to the character Hill played in Superbad (opposite Michael Cera) he complimented Tatum in a different way. Over all,  these two made a pretty funny duo. 

    • grabbagcinema

      I agree. Lesson learned for James. Don’t prejudge. :)

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