While 21 Jump Street is, as expected, a forgettable movie, there are enough laughs and pokes at Hollywood rehashing that it isn’t a total waste of time.
In this sort-of-remake of the 80s series, Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum play cop buddies who are tasked with going undercover at a high school where a vicious new drug has killed a teen. Their job, according to Captain Dickson (played to an hilarious and perfect cliche by Ice Cube), is to “infiltrate the dealers and find the supplier.” During their actual high school years, Hill’s character was a nerd and Tatum’s the dumb-but-cool jock. Both expect the same thing to happen again as they go undercover, but, naturally, the tables get turned.
Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller and screenwriter Michael Bacall are at least aware enough that the plot is out-and-out ridiculous and that Hollywood has a severe problem with rehashing old ideas – indeed, the speech given by Hill’s and Tatum’s chief (also played to perfection by the ever-funny Nick Offerman) particularly stands out as a self-mocking wink to the audience. It also helps that some of the regular jokes are also funny.
However, 21 Jump Street isn’t clever or tongue-in-cheek enough to stick out. It’s no Anchorman or Superbad. (Sidenote: is there a movie with Jonah Hill that doesn’t, at some point, throw a house party besides Moneyball?) I cannot in good conscience recommend this movie, but if you see it, you won’t hate yourself afterward, and you may, if you’re lucky, laugh a little bit.