21 Jump Street
“ 21 Jump Street ” is the address where baby-faced rookie cops report for their new assignment: as undercover high school students, to bust a drug ring.
This isn’t exactly what Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) have in mind for their colorful new career as gun-toting tough hombres. But it’s better than riding bicycles in shorts, patrolling the park, which was their first assignment. They found themselves holding quick-draw contests, and trying not to laugh when defiant little kids feed the ducks in front of the sign that says “Don’t feed the ducks.” For this they endured the police academy?
Actually, the police academy was a happenstance for both of them. Jenko had been the big, dumb jock in high school, popular, carefree, and actively disdainful of the “nerds” like Schmidt, who made straight A’s, but couldn’t get a date to the prom, and was picked on by bullies in the hallway, including Jenko. Schmidt had bad memories of high school, and didn’t want to go back. Jenko felt confident in his social skills, which, as it turns out, were strangely outmoded. No longer was it cool to be dispassionate; instead, you were supposed to care about the environment. No longer was it cool to get into a fistfight in the parking lot, instead, bullying was considered disdainful. Sure, there were still “cliques,” but they had re-formed: Jenko doesn’t know what to make of Asian Goth.
Our two anti-heroes find themselves strangely reversed in their “encore” high school: Schmidt, mistakenly assigned to the “easy” classes like drama, finds a home in pretending to be somebody he’s not, which, of course, is ironic for an undercover officer, but it’s a delicious kind of acting within acting within acting, and as for Jenko, well, stuck with the chemistry geeks, he finds that he actually has more capacity for academics than he’d previously allowed himself. Yes, he still looks too old for high school, but then, so does most everybody else in this comedy/parody/spoof.
Schmidt and Jenko live with Schmidt’s parents, which lends them a certain dependent credibility, but they get to take certain liberties with the police captured evidence storehouse: cool wheels, and, later, some marijuana for a party they’re throwing for the kids. Yes, this is where those of us with moralistic tendencies are going to have difficulty: despite being warned by their incessantly profane superior not to do so, they decide the best way to see the drug ring in action is to throw a wild party where alcohol and drugs are present, so, yes, they intend to actively contribute to the delinquency of minors. So how is that wrong to be weighed against the right of busting the drug ring?
But this movie is not well-represented by all this serious talk about its plot and its moral dilemmas. This is a teenage gross-out comedy on steroids. So, we have rampant cursing, awkward sexual situations (but little true romance or any real eroticism), and lots of profane gestures intended to be comic. And when our two anti-heroes are forced to take a sample drug in order to prove their sincerity to the dealer? The cinematic hijinks are hilarious, as they see people speaking to them that look like suits with monster heads (it’s hard to describe, you have to see it). And as for Schmidt praying to the “Korean Jesus” using profanity, along with a “if you exist, no offense” disclaimer: it’s so apparently sincere it’s difficult to interpret as parody, except that Jenko, overhearing, is laughing himself silly in the background.
Sure, it’s puerile humor. And sometimes it trips over its own homage to its television predecessor. And sometimes the attempts to make it a “real” drama become laughable by their ineptitude (especially the posturing with the motorcycle gang). But if you can suspend your disbelief about the immorality and illegality portrayed here, and loosen up about your possible range of ribald, raucous, humor: it’s good for a few LOLs.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Interim Pastor, St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, Irving , Texas