Directors: Phil Lord and Chris Miller
Starring: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Dave Franco, Brie Larson, Rob Riggle and Ice Cube
21 Jump Street is easily the year’s best comedy so far. What sets it out, is its self awareness. Jonah Hill (Who produced and has a story credits as well as starring in this film) and the film’s directors (Phil Lord and Christopher Miller) know how silly the concept of 21 Jump Street is, as well as how equally silly it is to bring it back as a movie. The film’s knowledge of its own ridiculousness is what allows it to win the audience over and operate on entirely different level than most would take this material. Also, as the film is directed by two guys with a background in animation (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs) the film is surprisingly visually inventive, with a scene where our two leads get high on the drug their attempting to stop the supply of, leading to the sort of madness that is missing from most mainstream comedies. It is this self-awareness and visual invention that elevates it above your standard high school, buddy cop, comedy.
The way it examines high school dynamics is perhaps the best portrayal of high school in film for years. It addresses all the high school cliches and turns everything on its head. The “cool” kids are now those who sing about the environment and witnessing the confusion of Hill and Tatum as they explore this brave new world is hilarious to watch. It is also a great idea to have the character of Channing Tatum fall in with, “the nerds” and the character of Jonah Hill to fall in with the, “the popular kids” Watching Channing Tatum desperately try and hold on to his cool status, then embrace the geek lifestyle as Jonah Hill slowly but surely becomes too ingrained in having what he never had, is both comedically and thematically well conceived and executed. Channing Tatum gives my favourite performance of his in this film and if this year has belonged to any actor so far, it is Channing Tatum. With roles in this and Haywire, he has won me over and many other males as well, while continuing to exploit his looks and appeal to the already won over female demographic in films such as The Vow and Magic Mike. An actor who I previously thought was destined to be the rom-com and cheesy action movie guy has revealed himself to be a surprisingly adept comedic actor, with him being the surprise and revelation of this film.
However it is the chemistry between Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum that brings out the best in each of them. The odd couple dynamic is brilliantly played and seeing those two guys from the opposite end of the social spectrum get thrown together, have to pretend to be brothers, return to that place and reverse roles is a joy to watch. Hill has always been a great comedic actor however with his behind the scenes contribution to this, he is starting to become one of my favourite people in the business. Similarly to how him and Brad Pitt played off each other to great effect in Moneyball, with 21 Jump Street Hill is displaying that he is perhaps better at most than striking up a good relationship and chemistry with an actor, before mining it for all its comedic potential.
The film doesn’t only bring its self-awareness and wit to high school however, with it also having Hot Fuzz-esque moments of satirizing the action genre. However when any film goes into Hot Fuzz related territory, it is always going to pale in comparison. The film however isn’t just self-aware in regards to two genres, but also film structure, with a character brilliantly saying, “And that’s the end of act two” When the film lets itself down, it is when it strays into the action it was previously, albeit briefly, lampooning. Like many a film this year (Leading to the following sentence now becoming a cliched criticism) it falls apart in the third act. In the third act the film goes into action set-pieces which don’t have the wit or crazy violence you would expect (Save for the very final piece of violence) instead being played relatively straight and therefore losing my interest dramatically. With a reworked third act, 21 Jump Street could have been a great comedy, however for that and a plot thread involving Channing Tatum and a teacher which doesn’t really go anywhere, 21 Jump Street has to settle for being a very good comedy.
However, never mind self-awareness, never mind visual invention, never mind chemistry, performances and third act problems...the real question regarding a comedy is, is it funny? For which the answer in this case, is a big yes. 21 Jump Street is a very funny film and has many lines of dialogue that my friends and I have already been relentlessly quoting. Ice Cube has an hilarious supporting role as the self proclaimed angry black captain and is able to illicit genuine laughter out of merely saying, “There are rumours...on the Twittersphere” while there is a cameo late in the game which should be funnier than it actually is.
Overall 21 Jump Street is silly and rude, but most like most silly and rude comedies it is also sweet and intelligent. The film has genuine wit and self awareness, as well as a surprising degree of visual invention, a great lead partnership and some of the biggest and best laughs of the year. It could have been fifteen minutes shorter and a little less conventional in its third act, however 21 Jump Street succeeds where most mainstream comedy films fail...it made laugh.
By Movie Parliament Prime Minister,
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