One interesting aside that I realized as this review has become somewhat delayed is that there has been some internet chatter contrasting this film, which was a dramatic TV show that metamorphosed to a comedic film with Dark Shadows. This film has been well received and the Dark Shadows trailer has been met with much disgust and vitriol. Aside from the obvious differences between film and trailer the other thing that bears mentioning at leas from my perspective is that you can even turn something from drama to comedy or horror to comedy so long as it perceived as funny. This film always looked funny and it’s even funnier than advertised what we’ve seen of Dark Shadows thus far is not as amusing. In the interest of digression, let us continue with the film we know about (for it has been released) that successfully change the predominant genre it plays in yet mixes in elements of others within it and allow me to end the Dark Shadows conversation by saying I am holding my breath that I do like it but am now very anxious.
Now it’s not the most difficult thing in the world to make incompetent law enforcement funny. It just usually is but this film does so in a very interesting way. It starts with the personal connection between the two leads and then after one stasis scene reverses field as they’re in the police academy and see that they can help each other. Eventually this convenient arrangement made for mutual interests evolves into a friendship. So they pass but they’re not very good in the real world and it leads into their being reassigned and thus things proceed. What makes it even more interesting form that point forward is that there is some tongue-in-cheek, meta treatment of police procedural film plots best exemplified by Ice Cube playing the Angry Police Captain, who is angry and he knows it.
Yet the film isn’t only content with just making a hilarious undercover cop spoof as they go undercover in a high school (as they are, according to the captain, Justin Beaver and Miley Cyrus looking mofos) it does it’s own interpretation of your standard high school film. Yet the best thing about it is not only does the hilarity escalate as they stumbled their way to a plan of action as to how best to infiltrate the drug ring in the school but slowly and surely their prior high school personas invert.
This inversion is facilitated and intimated immediately by the positive generational commentary in the film. The tropes that have been the staple of high school films for years are becoming stale in part because the subcultures of the student body are more diverse and fragmented than ever before and thus in this film even as it only sketched its youthful characters broadly it renders a more positive and complete portrayal of a student body than you usually see in such films.
All of these plot elements are great but comedies perhaps more so than any other genre is truly brought to life by the performers on screen and this may seem like the unlikeliest pair you ever heard of but Hill and Tatum really do make magnificent foils. Hill really has been flexing his muscles lately and provides many of the punchlines here but Tatum as straight man does have his moments including some dramatic ones that add to the surprising depth of the film.
The film is layered but it is a comedy and I scattered the word funny about the first few paragraphs of this review yet the time comes when discussing any comedy to decide: How funny is it? My initial reaction is one I have not wavered from, it is likely the most complete and engaging comedy I’ve seen since Anchorman. With the important caveat that Anchorman was a film which grew on me. I liked it at first and grew to adore it.
What truly puts this film above most is that the laughs stay consistent but all the other tropes, complications and necessities of plot whether the police procedural ones or the high school movie ones get folded in seamlessly. Not once did I groan because such and such scene was coming up and I knew it would it’d prolong the conclusion of the film. A lot of that is also attributed to the writing and performance. In liking the characters and having them already split watching them is easy whether even though they have fought.
21 Jump Street is a hilarious film, which tells a pretty good crime tale and a great high school story when all those things are combined you end up with a pretty fantastic and special movie.