"We're reviving a canceled undercover project from the '80s and revamping it for modern times. The people behind this lack creativity and they've run out of ideas, so what they do now is just recycle shit from the past and hope that nobody will notice."
There is no denying that Hollywood has hoed so much ground from prior ideas, some good, some bad, even taking something with the concept of 21 Jump Street is going to be a dicey proposition. And to be fair it was not for a lack of trying, with the film seeing a bevy of actors before the decision was made to land on its two stars, one of whom was admittedly an odd casting choice. But you know something? It works.
The events in the film center on two cops who unknowingly are familiar with one another since their days at the same high school. Jenko (Channing Tatum, The Vow) is a charismatic student who is a little weak on his grades. Schmidt (Jonah Hill, Moneyball) is the high school geek of the two, fresh off being turned down by a girl to go to the prom. Several years later the two find themselves as police academy together and through the environment, wind up supporting one another in each other's weaknesses, whether it is Jenko helping Schmidt improve his athletics or Schmidt bettering Jenko's test-taking and law enforcing details. After a bust goes awry, the two are sent to a special detail where they become undercover officers in high school, as part of a mission to thwart a drug distribution ring.
It has always been my contention that if one goes into making a film and takes full acceptance that what they are trying to do may be met with a degree of popular scorn, it gives them a degree of freedom that perhaps they would not gleam onto otherwise. In other hands that may make things a little more serious, perhaps the flaws in a character may be glossed over or ignored. In this script written by Michael Bacall (who not only wrote the script for Scott Pilgrim vs. the World but also helped put the story together with Hill), both characters' deficiencies are given time to shine in this comedy. Hill is a brainiac who still has trouble balancing the physical part of his job with the procedural part of it, and one knows going in that you are probably going to see that given some attention for laughs. What I was not expecting was how trusting Tatum would be for the story to do the same for him. Combined with the direction of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs), Tatum plays Jenko as a stud, who is fully aware of how much attention he gets from women. But he also plays a guy who is not the brightest bulb in the lamp and commits to that side of the character surprisingly well. Of the two leads, Tatum is head and shoulders the bigger surprise of the film, more than Hill's weight loss in preparation for it.
Another surprising thing was not only the various recognizable faces in the film, but they were given their own moment to show off their talents as well. Pilgrim alum Brie Larson plays a high school student and Hill's kinda sorta possibly illegal love interest. Ice Cube, who when I last saw him was making a fool of himself in Are We Done Yet?, returns as the police captain of Jump Street and does so with contempt and dressing down of his charges that I have not seen out of him since the "Lethal Injection" album. Welcome back Cube. As the villain in the movie, Rob Riggle (Larry Crowne) is his own brand of hilarity without being a heel. People may remember him from The Hangover, but seek out his "Funny or Die" shorts called "Designated Driver," which show his talents a little better and are closer to his character in this film.
Those are a few of the things going on in the film but trust me, there are a whole bevy of them. Whether they are infant glamour shots or watching Jenko and Schmidt on drugs, each is hilarious in their own right. The drugs are given out by a dealer whose 'badassery' is forgotten about quickly and easily because not only is his character is not hard to begin with, but hardly contributes to the overall story which is flimsy at best. You know it, I know it, and thankfully the cast and crew of the film know it.
Look, I was like you when I heard 21 Jump Street was coming to theaters. I thought any conceivable time for it to even occur had passed, and that the notion of Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum doing ANYTHING together was an outlandish one. What I did not expect is that Hill and Tatum are aware of that, and wrap both arms about the silliness of it without performing coitus. Watching the first half hour of the movie I chucked any biases aside and enjoyed the hell out of it, and in this film you get two guys who take your preconceived notion and make you forget about them and enjoy the ride.
The Blu-ray Disc:
Sony shows off 21 Jump Street in an AVC-encoded 2.40:1 widescreen presentation that looks excellent. The film juggles what look like 16-bit graphics, some computer generated enhancement and practically shot footage adeptly, with minimal image noise or distracting DNR to put a damper on the mood. Film grain is present when viewing and the color palette is reproduced vividly without oversaturation. Flesh tones appear natural and lack any orange or red hues, and image detail is consistent and strong through the film. Another quality presentation by the studio.
DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless surround is the way of the day for the film, and it does quite a bit of work, starting from the notes of Eminem in the opening credits. Moving along, bullet hits in the third act come from all channels, and whiz through the speakers cleanly and clearly, directional effects in smaller sequences (such as the drug sequence) are effective and convincing. Dialogue is well-balanced and does not creep into the other front speakers, and would not unless it was part of the sound design. The film does a lot within its run time and the soundtrack handles them all effectively.
Some decent stuff is included on the disc, starting with a commentary with Lord, Miller, Tatum and Hill. The track is lighthearted through the experience, spotting the cast and some memorable moments some of them had, along with scenes that may have been cut. Tatum and Hill made a bet on the box office success of the film that Tatum won, but I'll let you find out what the bet was, along with a Whitney Houston joke they had to excise. The track was entertaining, had solid recollection on the production and was entertaining.
Next are 20 omitted scenes (18 deleted, two extended, 29:32 total) that include alternate riffs by Riggle and Cube among others, but none of the scenes impacted the final story in any way. "Cube-O-Rama" (1:53) are some additional takes from Cube, while "Back to School" (7:43) looks at the approach of the film and the cast and crew answer the "If I could go back to high school now, what would I do?" question. "Brothers in Arms" (6:24) is where the leads discuss working with one another, while the "Rob Riggle Show" (9:24) showcases the comic. The day showing original Jump member Johnny Depp's work on set is remembered (4:42), and "Peter Pan on the Freeway" (4:12) looks at the car chase. A gag reel (4:58) and Ultraviolet copy of the film close things out.
In 21 Jump Street, what could have been an unfunny paint by numbers mess is actually a spot-on blend of humor and action, with better than expected production by the leads and supporting cast who invest themselves heavily in the laughs. Even the action sequences have a chuckle or two. Technically the disc looks and sounds great and the supplements are better than I was expecting. It is more than worth the time to watch.