Early on in the, we’ll call it, “adaptation” of ‘80s sitcom “21 Jump Street,” Nick Offerman looks at bumbling police rookies Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum and says “we’ve revived a secret undercover program from the ‘80s because the guys who make that don’t come up with new shit.”
It’s a clever little joke, poking fun at the love of reviving properties no one cares about and it sets the tone wonderfully for one of the most obscene, filthy and funny comedies of the year.
“21 Jump Street” has Hill and Tatum as incompetent undercover cops infiltrating a high school to find out who’s selling the newest, craziest designer drug to hit the streets. Their investigation, however, is only half the fun.
Tatum’s dim-witted hunk is one of the funniest parts of the film, as a mixup puts him in the hardest classes at school, forcing him to interact with the nerds rather than the hip drug-addled popular guys and gals Hill is stuck with. His interactions are sure to be quoted for years, “Anchorman” style, particularly his rap about Potassium Nitrate and his stoned interaction with gym teacher Rob Riggle.
Hill’s solid as well, although he gets saddled with a not-quite believable John Hughes-style character arc. As much as I like his interactions with the foxy theater geek, played by Brie Larson of “Scott Pilgrim” and United States of Tara fame, their high school puppy dog romance is one of the least successful parts of the film and slows down the non-stop dick jokes a little too much.
As stated, “21 Jump Street” is gloriously dirty. Unlike 2004’s similar “Starsky & Hutch,” writers Hill and Michael Bacall gun for as hard of an R-rating as possible, with impressive amounts of swearing, jokes about the penis, even stranger jokes about vaginas and all the heavy drug and alcohol use you could possibly want. If you need a movie where Channing Tatum and Ice Cube seem to be in a constant competition to see who can say “mother f****r” the most times, this is it.
None of this makes “21 Jump Street” sound like a smart movie and it really isn’t. You’re bound to see the twists coming, the jokes get a little stale and all the screamed obscenities are sure to wear some viewers down. It would be unforgivable if it wasn’t just so damn funny.
Whether it’s a ridiculously over-the-top car chase, Hill running around in a Peter Pan costume, Tatum trying to explain how science works using only the number “4” and Spiderman’s origin story, several gloriously gory shootouts and the funniest cameo since “Zombieland,” “21 Jump Street” is the dumbest smart comedy since “MacGruber” and the first great comedy of 2012.