21 Jump Street (2012)


Director:  Phil Lord & Chris Miller
Cast:  Jonah HillChanning TatumIce Cube 
Plot:  A pair of underachieving cops are sent back to a local high school to blend in and bring down a synthetic drug ring.

Genre:  Action / Comedy

Awards:  -
Runtime:  109min
Rating:  M18 for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, drug material, teen drinking and some violence.


Let's go back in time to the late 1980s.  At that time, '21 Jump Street' was a television series, starring a young and handsome (he still is) Johnny Depp.  

The series centered on youthful-looking police officers doing undercover work in schools and colleges, where they attempted to investigate crimes such as drug abuse among students.  At the end of each episode, there is usually a moralistic slant to it.  In fact, the series had some cast members made public service announcements after the programme.

What a dramatic u-turn in this modern update on the action-drama TV series.  Identically titled, this feature film co-directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller is a comedy, parody even, of its original.  It has no moral obligations, is vulgar in a number of ways, and throws all matters of decency out of the window in its climax. 

Still, 21 Jump Street is generally entertaining and at times funny, as it should be, though it must be said that the humour can be The Hangover-style crude with loads of sexual references and repeated swearing.

Starring Jonah Hill (Superbad, 2007; Moneyball, 2011), and Channing Tatum (Dear John, 2010; The Vow, 2012), 21 Jump Street sees both actors playing police officers who don casual wear to infiltrate a suspected drug ring within the school compound. 

Expect loads of mayhem and embarrassing moments as the lead characters try to stay afloat in high school.  There are KPIs set by their boss (played by Ice Cube) to be met, but they are not of the academic kind.  Cube's supporting performance is most memorable as he spews profanity like gutter water gushing out of a broken pipe.

21 Jump Street is first and foremost a raunchy comedy.  Action only comes into play in the final act, with a couple of unexpected surprises in store.  Although the film careens into the realm of inexplicable nonsense towards the end, it somewhat prepares us for that outcome. 

There is no value in this film except for the value of entertainment.  And it does entertain in spades, however desperate the filmmakers seem to be in trying to milk every last laugh from the audience.

21 Jump Street is a 'buddy cop' comedy with some sprinkle of action, parodying (though nowhere near as intelligently as Hot Fuzz, 2007) its genre conventions, and of its source.  It is satisfying for those looking for a good time with fellow friends, though it does not really matter how you watch it, in theatres or on home video.

Verdict:  Has its moments, 21 Jump Street is a modern and vulgar update on the hit TV series of the late 1980s.


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