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21 Jump Street (AF)


Stars: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Brie Larson, Dave Franco, Rob Riggle, Ice Cube, Ellie Kemper, Lindsey Broad

Director: Phil Lord and Chris Miller

Hill’s last comedy, The Sitter, was slightly less amusing than root canal dentistry. Here, in this lewd, crude and disgracefully funny action comedy, he more than makes amends. This big screen version of the popular television series that brought stardom to Johnny Depp happily has no pretensions other than to raise laughs. And, for me, it certainly succeeded. I laughed until I hurt and then carried on laughing happily to take my mind off the pain.

OK, it’s not ‘art’ as we know it, Jim. But is is terrific fun.

Directors Lord and Miller propel Michael Bacall’s inventive screenplay at a breathless pace, which turns out to be just right. Gag follows gag with few gaps and the action – especially some splendid chases and a long-signalled, even longer-delayed (and all the funnier for it) flaming explosion – is equally fast and furious.

At the core is the splendid comic teaming of Tatum and Hill, first seen as enemies at high school where Hill, with metal braces on his teeth, perfectly epitomizes the word ‘nerd’ while Tatum - banned from the prom because of his low grades – is your typical Hollywood high school hero.

Seven years later, the odd couple (long a Hollywood comic staple) become friends at the police academy and graduate as motorcycle cops leading to a splendidly silly confrontation with a gang of drug dealers in a park. After which they are ‘sentenced’ to join the Police Department’s secret ’21 Jump Street’ unit and, because of their ‘youthful’ appearance, sent undercover back to high school to investigate the appearance on the scene of a brand-new drug…

Bacall’s screenplay (based on his and Hill’s story) rarely relaxes, especially after an initial mix-up in identities, which results in Tatum being marked as the intellectual nerd and Hill as a jock, and low laughs comes hard and fast, along with rousing action. A loony car chase in a stolen driving instruction vehicle is just one of the highlights, which culminate in a wild shoot-out complete with an unexpected and entertaining guest appearance.

Stir in Hill’s laughable audition for Peter Pan in the college stage production and a later on-stage brawl with the bad guys and you have as riotous a riff on the regulation Hollywood coming-of-age-best-friend-in-college-and-cracking-crime- caper-movie as you could hope to enjoy.

Alan Frank

USA 2012. UK Distributor: Sony. Colour by deluxe.
109 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 2, Swearing 3.

Review date: 11 Mar 2012