21 Jump Street
Spoiler Alert: It’s Good
Review written by Robert Patrick
Starring: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum
21 Jump Street’s wonky, bombastic action premise is ramped up with crude jokes and staccato delivery. These aforementioned comedy tropes bring to mind the barbed brains of directors such as Todd Phillips and Adam McKay. Strangely, 21 Jump Street is directed by the duo held responsible for Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, the children’s film where an animated Anna Faris gets pelted by falling comfort food. Michael Bacall, the screenwriter of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, provides 21 Jump Street’s slick, perverse banter. With this update of the 1980s series of the same name, 21 Jump Street somehow manages to cull, more consistently than not, effectiveness from the newly trim Jonah Hill and the forever masculine Channing Tatum. The quips bristle with energy and wit, even when the typically vapid Tatum skulks around on screen. Someone must have sold their soul on the crossroads to make Tatum have a semblance of screen presence, because, with this performance alone, he convinces otherwise unforgiving audiences that he can do more than flex muscle and jut out his chin.
Implausible as it seems, Ice Cube actually turns in a decent performance; this despite the role simply calling for him to viciously bark, aggressively point, or anchor his eyebrows at the smarmy behavior of Hill and Tatum. There isn’t really a bad supporting turn in the film. And this shouldn’t be a surprise considering that they were able to make the stone browed Tatum look affable if not altogether talented. Even Hill’s pulpy dialogue, containing everything from obligatory penis jokes to stuttering uncertainties about religion, is one of the funniest, most genuinely engaging performances, in his career. 21 Jump Street is also the first time an Oscar nominee has made gags about male genitalia since Martin Landau in Ed Wood. Again, and most pleasantly, the story here is that the broad shouldered behemoth and habitual ladykiller Channing Tatum does an amiable job of jabbing fun of his alpha male persona, giving the most leery of filmgoers a reason to molt their apprehensions about the usually stoic frontman. Chase all of these elements down with a clever, volatile screenplay that has more bite than four rows of shark teeth and you have a spitfire comedy that headbutts would be naysayers.