Todd Miller | Collegio Reporter
Rating: 3 stars
It’s a wonderful surprise when a movie looks like it will be terrible but ends up better than expected. That doesn’t mean “21 Jump Street” was good; it just wasn’t horrible.
The movie is a loose sequel to the late ‘80s/early ‘90s show of the same name. Morton Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Greg Jenko (Channing Tatum) hated each other in high school, but they become close friends in police training when they recognize the other’s skills. After they graduate, though, they find their job is less exciting than they expected. When an arrest goes wrong, they get transferred to 21 Jump Street, which is a special police squad of youthful cops who go undercover in high schools and colleges. They are sent to their old high school to find the supplier of a new synthetic drug before it spreads to other campuses.
The best thing about this movie is that the writers didn’t try too hard to be funny. The jokes and gags came across naturally and didn’t feel forced. I was able to laugh at the comedy instead of thinking about how poor it was, something that has become commonplace in recent comedy films. The writers weren’t afraid to mix different forms of comedy, either. In addition to spoken and visual jokes, there was some good physical comedy and a little meta-humor throughout the plot from Schmidt and Jenko’s pre-transfer captain.
The plot (stopping drug use in high school) isn’t entirely original. However, the film isn’t heavy-handed on the issue, and manages to keep the story fresh enough that it remained entertaining. This was also a drawback as the movie was too constant on that front. It didn’t become gradually more interesting as it approached the climax and felt more like a TV show than a movie. A TV show can pull that off because it only has to fill 30 minutes to an hour, but “21 Jump Street” is a feature-length movie and this makes the film feel like it drags on too much. The creators had the right idea but the wrong medium.
I also feel like there wasn’t enough development of the two main characters. There were plenty of opportunities for both of them to grow as people and learn from their past mistakes, especially when they gain a role reversal while undercover in the high school. The movie hints at this, but I don’t feel like they reached that point. This plot point just dies out because the characters are too shallow to let it happen.
The movie had trouble with pacing as well. The beginning was rushed to the point that it felt worthless. They would’ve done better to disperse it throughout the film. The movie then goes through points of moving too quickly or too slowly. It felt like the scenes were there for the sake of a set of jokes and the film then rushed to the next scene and set of jokes. While many films do this sparingly, “21 Jump Street” has a bit too much of it and becomes tiresome quickly. This is probably why the film feels too consistent, with no rising investment in the plot.
Overall, I’d say give “21 Jump Street” a chance. It pulls off the comedy aspect somewhat well, even if the movie starts to feel rather bland somewhere through the middle.