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21 Jump Street

21 Jump Street

Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum relive their high school days in the remake of the television show 21 Jump Street.  Filmmakers Phil Lord and Chris Miller surprise in a big way, taking this remake of an outdated television show from the 1980’s and properly updating it to modern times, telling a hilarious, lewd story about not just our regrets about our high school days but about the ways we have changed and the way today’s teenagers are quickly changing with the times.

Tatum and Hill play old high school nemeses who later befriend each other at the police academy, both recognizing each other’s gifts – Tatum’s obvious physical attributes and Hill’s nerdy smarts.  Lord and Miller do well here to get over this exposition hump quickly as the film really comes alive when they join the high school undercover unit.  Taking on fake identities to find the source of a new drug at a local high school, the two accidentally switch identities and thusly, switch social statuses as a result creating an interesting subversion of the usual regression that one would expect.

What makes the film work, and the humor work so well, is the surprisingly great chemistry of Tatum and Hill and the even more surprising comedic time of Channing Tatum.  The actor finds much in the way of a brutal innocence and dimness that works for the character and provides some of the film’s biggest laughs and finds a great screen partner in Hill.  The cast is actually uniformly great, especially Ice Cube in the cliché role of gruff captain to his unruly squad and Dave Franco as the popular kid supplying drugs at his school.  The film often mocks and contemplates on its unoriginal origins but uses it wisely, never overdoing the self-parodying and telling its own story in skillful ways.  It’s a fun movie that works because it never rests on its laurels of being a name brand and the delightful chemistry of its two leads.  Even when the film falls into the usual-usual action/comedy black-hole of car chases and gun fights in a slightly dull third act, there is still enough there for an entertaining ride.

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