Matthew Tennant’s review published on Letterboxd:
There's a scene early on in Phil Miller and Chris Lord's 2012 comedy "21 Jump Street" in which buddy cops Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) get assigned to the Jump Street unit by Deputy Chief Hardy (Nick Offerman). When the two ask what the Jump Street unit is, Hardy answers, "It's an old program from the 80s that we're starting up again. That's all we do anymore--just reuse old ideas and hope no one notices."
This line essentially sets the tone for the rest of the film--Lord and Miller are completely cognizant of the fact that they're directing what seems like the 200th ill-advised reboot of an 80s property, so they strive to make it as self-aware and tongue-in-cheek as possible. Surprisingly, they not only succeed, but totally knock it out of the park. I went into this film expecting a serviceable action-comedy with a few cheap laughs, but honestly this was one of the most consistently hilarious, enjoyable films I've seen in a long time.
In "21 Jump Street," Tatum and Hill play Schmidt and Jenko two bumbling rookie cops who, after botching a drug bust, get assigned to a 'Jump Street' Unit, in which they go undercover as high schoolers in order to infiltrate a teenage drug ring. The operation seems fairly straight-forward at first, but soon the two begin to become immersed in their high school identities, and things begin to get complicated with girls, parties, and popularity.
Again, I wasn't expecting much from this movie, but "21 Jump Street" was really a joy to watch. Channing and Hill have perfect chemistry together, capturing their buddy-cop bromance with wit and ease. Both are adept at playing the straight man AND the funny man, and constantly switch back and forth between the two. The "role reversal" aspect of the narrative was great as well--when the two arrive at high school, former jock Jenko realizes that his signature brand of meathead macho isn't "cool" any more. Now, the popular kids are environmental activists, studying hard, and openly gay. As Jenko is shunted to the sidelines, schlubby dork Schmidt finds himself rising to popularity. This was a great dynamic within the film and really built some great conflict between the two characters, adding a certain level of emotional stakes to what would have otherwise been a pretty wafer-thin comedy.
The supporting cast is spot-on as well. Dave Franco oozes as much charisma and charm as his older brother James, and the now Oscar-winner Brie Larson brings vivacity to everything she does, even though the burgeoning romance between her and Schmidt gets creepier the more you think about it, considering she's still in high school. And of course, it's always great to see cameos from Nick Offerman and Ice-Cube.
The only flaw I found with "21 Jump Street" is that its third act descended into a sort of bland action shoot-em-up and the priorly well-developed Maggie (Larson) unfortunately became a damsel-in-distress type for Schmidt to win. However, even the lack-luster third act can't damage the veritable comedic masterpiece that Miller and Lord created. I've never been a big fan of either Hill or Tatum, but this film won me over on both of them, and Lord and Miller are quickly becoming the go to guys for taking bad ideas (Jump Street reboot, a movie about Legos), and making them comedy goldmines. Let's hope they can do the same with the "Han Solo" origin movie--I certainly have faith in them.