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21 Jump Street

Sometimes crass is all you need

Undercover cops Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill head back to high school to break up a drug ring. <<© Sony Pictures>>

21 Jump Street is an immature comedy, full of penis references, bodily function humor, comedic violence and drug jokes that appeal to the lowest common denominator.
    I laughed through the whole movie.
    Sometimes the best humor comes from rude places. But if you dislike strong language and sexual humor, you’ll have the vapors before the 20-minute mark.
    The movie focuses on two high school kids: insecure nerd Schmidt (Jonah Hill: The Sitter) and cool bully Jenko (Channing Tatum: The Vow). Jenko tortured Schmidt through most of high school, but when both boys join the police academy, the dynamic changes. Jenko is too dumb to score well on the written exams, but he’s smart enough to befriend the kid he used to bully. Schmidt leaps at the chance to be buds with the cool kid and, in turn, gets Jenko to act as his personal trainer.
    In a frightening turn of events, both are allowed to become gun-toting cops. After their first bust goes spectacularly wrong, their captain assigns them to a new undercover operation, which uses young-looking officers to infiltrate high schools.
    The dynamic duo are given teen identities and sent to uncover a narcotics ring that is selling an ecstasy-type synthetic drug that has led to teen deaths.
    The boys stupidly mix up their secret identities. Jenko must cope with AP Science nerd classes, and Schmidt must fit in with the cool crowd. In the new world of activist-light high schoolers, Schmidt excels at his assignment, making friends with all the green, progressive popular kids. Jenko, on the other hand is horrified to discover that his bullying cool kid act is now reviled.
    Kids today!
    As the duo gets closer to the top of the drug ring, cracks form in their relationship. Can Jenko reconcile himself to being a nerd and an outcast? Will Schmidt forego the investigation to relive high school as part of the popular crowd? Will either of them remember that it’s kinda illegal to supply alcohol to minors, even if they want to throw a bitchin’ house party? Will Johnny Depp make a cameo?
    21 Jump Street isn’t a new or original take on well-worn cop and comedy genres. They haven’t reinvented the wheel, but they’ve put expensive rims on it. The new comedic premise transforms the source material — a straight teen-cop procedural — into a goofy high school comedy that’s superior to the original.
    The movie succeeds because directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller know how to exploit clichés for the biggest laugh. The lecherous teacher isn’t sexy; she’s nuts. Characters comment on how old Jenko and Schmidt look, and indeed these 30-year-olds don’t look like pizza-faced teens. When the cops attempt to jump over a moving car they find out that getting struck by a car actually hurts. Who would have thought?
    The utter glee of the actors makes this comedy sing. Tatum often plays a dour romantic lead in weepy melodramas and teen dance flicks. He seems thrilled to be unleashed into the world of cursing and violence, with nary a poetically sick love interest in sight. Hill is by now an expert in this genre, having spent his early career under the wing of gross-out king Judd Apatow.
    If you’re looking for urbane wit or restrained storytelling, this isn’t the flick for you. But if you giggle at the thought of drugged-up cops hallucinating a talking, melting, soft-serve cone, 21 Jump Street is well worth the price of admission.

Good Action Comedy • R • 109 mins.