I’m not going to lie; I really wasn’t expecting to like this film. I had a couple of hours to kill and my cineworld unlimited card was just itching to be used so I went in and chose the film that was starting first. So imagine my surprise when I found myself laughing along to what has to be one of the freshest comedies of recent times.
The opening sees Schmidt (Jonah Hill) in full clad Eminem gear - bleach blond hair and all - get rejected by the head cheerleader he asks to prom in front of the lead jock, Jenko (Channing Tatum) in an all too familiar high school prom date rejection scene. However, that is where the similarities to such films end. 4 years on, and the pair meet again at police academy and become friends. Now fully-fledged policemen, they are far from the action they expected on park patrol where high-speed chases are at an all time low. After a show of gross incompetence, and because they still look young, the pair are busted to an undercover unit to infiltrate a local high school to uncover a drug ring.
So far so average, and with a few laughs in this opening I was getting ready for a let down, but it actually gets better. And here’s why: as they give some smart remarks and backchat to their new squad lieutenant (played by a fantastically cast Ice Cube) about their new assignment, he yells at them and says, “embrace your stereotypes!” That’s what the film does. It embraces all of the generic clichés and fully understands them in order to subvert the usual expectations of not only the buddy cop genre, but the high school movie genre as well. The most notable example is the fact that Schmidt is now the cool kid and Jenko is the nerd hanging out with all the science kids.
But what really makes the film work is the comic timing between Hill and Tatum. I never would have pegged Tatum as a comedy actor and Jonah Hill hasn’t really done anything of comic merit since the overrated Superbad - so seeing the two of them on the poster made me a bit more confused than anything. However, it actually works fantastically well and is what really carries the film through its predictable narrative. You see; it isn’t the narrative that makes the film fresh, but the comedy that is woven into it. And this comedy is very 21st century. Cynical and self-referencing, it embraces the style of its predecessors whilst sharply mocking them. There is even a cameo from Johnny Depp - and a fantastic one at that - which seems fitting seeing as it was the 80’s TV show this film is based on that pretty much kick started his career.
So ultimately, while it isn’t setting the benchmark for originality in its storytelling, 21 Jump Street is a solid entry into the comedy buddy cop genre. Where the story is predictable and on the odd occasion the comedy divulges in gross out humour (probably to appeal to the younger teen audiences), it also delivers enough genuine laughs from a very strong comedy pairing to make up for all its flaws and provide a thoroughly enjoyable experience that’s probably going to be one of the best comedies of the year.