Film review: 21 Jump Street (15)

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WHO remembers 21 Jump Street, the 1980s TV series with pre-weird bouffant Johnny Depp as a babyfaced cop who goes undercover at high schools to uncover juvenile delinquency in pastel jackets and rolled-up sleeves?

Me neither, but that’s no bar to enjoying Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s shaggy action spoof with Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum as former school enemies – Hill was a chubby failure with girls, Tatum a dim cocky athlete – who become symbiotic friends and partners when they join the police force. After bodging a drugs bust, they are reassigned to the Jump Street unit, run by an angry foul-mouthed police captain (Ice Cube), who points out that Jump Street isn’t a new idea, just a “recycled programme from the 80s” which has been put to use because the bosses seem to have run out of new ideas.

Hill and Channing then have to pose as brothers in order to uncover who is selling a new synthetic drug to teenagers. Through an administrative mix-up, Hill’s insecure nerd is mistaken for the brother who excels at sports and drama, while Tatum is despatched to join the nerds in the science labs, where he learns about covalent bonds and has Star Wars sabre fights.

Comedy is familiar territory for Hill, but his role in 21 Jump Street easily those in his last two features, Haywire and The Vow. A former stripper, Tatum looks like very handsome steak and has the puppy dog earnestness of a man who isn’t sure he will remember his lines all the way through to the end of the scene. Like Keanu Reeves, he isn’t a natural actor, but in here he proves to be a good sport, enduring a lot of jokes at his expense.

One of the reasons they’ve been demoted in the first place is because Tatum’s jock can’t remember the Miranda rights all the way through (“you have the right to be an attorney”), and his studliness is no longer a passport to cool at high school, where tolerance and sensitivity are now prized. Only his chemistry teacher (Ellie Kemper) seems prepared to overlook his dimness and be inappropriately impressed by Tatum’s bodywork.

Elsewhere in the cast, Dave Franco (James’ even more eccentric brother) gives some nice readings as the school’s eco-aware drug dealer and there’s a surprise guest star appearance that you may spot the moment he turns up on screen. Inevitably, since this is a film that flip flops between passive and aggressive polarities of man-children, it is entranced by male bonding, appendages and the chance to enact car chases, and but it’s still a fairly filthy, funny flick that does nobody any harm. «

Siobhan Synnot

On general release from Friday