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21 Jump Street – review

Jonah Hill has been having the best two years of his life.  He was nominated for an Oscar, while also becoming Brad Pitt’s best friend, in one of the best films of last year, Moneyball. His phone is probably ringing off the hook with that alone.  He also lost about 100 pounds, and now wrote and produced his newest effort 21 Jump Street. Hill plays Morton Schmidt, an Eminem loving outcast from high school, who is on his way to becoming a cop.  Channing Tatum plays Greg Jenko, the bullying jock from Morton’s high school who also became a cop.  This isn’t high school anymore though, and Jenko and Morton realize they can help each other get through the police academy.  Jenko is good with the physical stuff, and Morton is good with the books.  They end up becoming good friends, and eventually partners, and swear an oath to a lifetime of becoming badasses…well…sort of.

Jenko and Morton are stuck being bike cops, looking for their first big break.  When they find some cocaine on a biker gang they screw the arrest up because Jenko can’t remember how the Miranda rights go.  They are subsequently re-assigned by their captain to the Jump Street division, home to castaway, young looking police officers, who can go undercover and infiltrate the high school scene.

If you’ve seen the dozen or so trailers that have come out for this film by now, then you’ve pretty much seen every scene in the film.  This is one of the problems of over marketing a film, but that’s another issue all together.   They must stay at Morton’s parents house to go along with their undercover persona’s.  Jenko somehow gets their identities mixed up though and is enrolled in all of Morton’s smarty-pants classes.  That’s not all that’s a surprise for Jenko.  High school isn’t quite how he remembers it.  Everything seems to have flipped upside down.  He was the coolest kid on the block as a jock back in the day, but now the jocks are nowhere to be found, and it seems the cool kids are the smart, eco-aware hipsters that he sees everywhere.  This is the high school that Morton always dreamed of going to, which is going to cause some problems between him and his new partner/brother.

What commences between Jenko, Morton, and their new high school classmates is complete drug-addled insanity.  They need to find out who is peddling a new synthetic drug that kids are gobbling up left and right.  What’s really messed up about this film is that the drug all these kids are taking seems like the coolest drug in the world, and Jenko and Morton find themselves stuck taking it one point to prove they’re not cops.  They seem to be having the time of their lives.  The only problem is that this drug does have a side effect…death.

The two make-shift brothers find out that a popular kid Eric is peddling the drug, but not supplying it, and finding the supplier is their job.  Morton becomes good friends with Eric, and also with the girl Eric sometimes, sort of, messes around with, Molly, but as the case gets deeper and deeper Morton’s judgement becomes clouded.  For once he’s the cool kid, and it may be effecting his job.

21 Jump Street is of course based on the TV series of the same name from the 80’s, starring Johnny Depp.  You’ll get to see a lot of cameos from people who were on that original series, who have now been promoted since their days on Jump Street.   The film pulls no punches.  Anything goes.  It’s one of the more perverse, and wild films I’ve seen in a couple years, and I would not recommend letting your teenage children go and see it…but that’s kind of why it’s so good.

Hill and Tatum make the film.  They are as good a partners as in any great buddy cop film over the years, and that includes The Hard Way starring James Woods and Michael J. Fox…seriously The Hard Way is awesome.  21 Jump Street is great because it is so over the top, but it’s also great because what if you did have the chance to go back to high school 7-8 years after you graduated?  Would you be re-living the glory years of your life, as some people believe it, or would you be thrust back into that awful nightmare that you wanted to avoid all those years.  The film plays with a lot of that and actually does a good job of making it a little bit more than surface deep.

This is easily one of the best films of the year thus far, and you should go check it out.

Grade: A-