Thomas Clarke’s review published on Letterboxd:
On first observation, ’21 Jump Street’ seems very much to be a carbon copy of 2008’s ‘Get Smart’. Both films are theatrical productions based on old television programmes, both are police crime movies and both star one well known comedy actor (Steve Carell for Get Smart and Jonah Hill for 21 Jump Street) and both films star one stereotypical action star (Dwayne Johnson for Get Smart and Channing Tatum for 21 Jump Street). In truth they are similar movies but that is not always a bad thing. What works for one usually carries over to the next and filmmakers live by the working philosophy ‘if it is not broke don't fix it’.
Based on the 1987 television series of the same name, ’21 Jump Street’ follows a undercover police group, consisting of officers who are able to infiltrate schools and other youthful places due to looking younger than they are. It’s high-school in 2005 and Morton Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Greg Jenko (Channing Tatum) cannot be any different. One is counted as the popular jock; the cool guy who makes up for his lack of intelligence by getting the girls and the other is a shy ‘Eminem loving’ geek, who has never been with a girl, has no friends and is constantly bullied. Cut to 7 years later and both guys meet again at police academy. Noticing that each can aid the other in what they lack, the two quickly become friends and graduate together. Thinking the career they have chosen was to be constantly exciting, the two are disappointed at only being assigned park duty. To gain what they believe to be instant promotion, they try and stop a drug dealing gang who out classes them completely. Having failed, the two young officers are reassigned to the revived 21 Jump Street division. There they are tasked with infiltrating the school in search of a new drug that has started making rounds with the kids. Whoever takes this drug goes through 4 different stages but has also led to people dying. When their introduction information is switched however, the two people shift their stereotypes and the results are in some cases, hilarious.
This film uses a working formula, it is funny throughout and holds an interesting plot line that allows the jokes to run smoothly. Nothing feels tacked on for simple laughs and therefore this film proves to be a good homage to source material. The choice of putting Channing Tatum into a acting partnership with funny guy Jonah Hill was perhaps one of the braver decisions that the production team made, and it worked entirely. The chemistry of the two characters is never put into doubt, with both playing off each other. With an impressive back catalogue of roles and a continuous increase to a personal fan base, Tatum is the man to use at the moment. With his acting continuously getting stronger in each film, this popularity is completely deserved. After associating himself with many of the comedy heavyweights in the business, Jonah Hill is steadily making a name for himself individually. After the disappointment of ‘The Sitter’ it is nice to see him back in a role that completely works with the type of actor that he is.
Although he is will be remembered for the comedy element that he gives in his performance, it is to be noted that his acting skill is getting increasingly better as well. No longer just receiving ‘bit’ parts and background roles, after his performance in ‘MoneyBall’, he is receiving further main castings. This is due to the hard work he put in the beginning of his career and as such, it completely feels fair. Both perform the lead roles perfectly, fitting into the style of the original show whilst giving over new personalities that they each embody. They carry the film admirably and are completely believable as best friends throughout.
With a supporting cast made of young rising actors, this film has a nice turn from Dave Franco- younger brother of James- who turns up as the films antagonist. Showing signs that his brother also did, this is definitely one person to watch in the future. Having stared in the original television series, it was great to see a cameo appearance from Johnny Depp. Even though he is on screen for a matter of minutes, it is cameos like this that remain in audience minds long after the film has run its course.
21 Jump Street is a fun film: there is no denying that. It uses a class double act that work perfectly together, embodying friendship and laughs, they carry the films narrative throughout. The fact that a lot of the plot has been seen before, means that there is no real surprises for audiences to find but that is not a real issue. The talent on show from the upcoming young actors is also a promising sight for the future of the film industry, holding their own with the more established auteurs on show. With a great cameo, this film serves as appropriate homage to a popular television show. It shouldn't disappoint those that hold the original material so fondly.