Haters can hate, I could give a shit because I LIKE JONAH HILL. Yeah, I said it. He’s loud and obnoxious and often plays the role of a crude and vulgar asshole, but I like him. Yes, in Knocked Up and Superbad, he was as offensively annoying as one can be. In Accepted and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, he was more of a pathetic, insecure nerdy type. He showed us his more serious side in his Oscar-nominated performance in Moneyball and then followed that with 21 Jump Street, wherein he reprises and expands upon the role of insecure nerd. (I choose to ignore The Sitter, which, as far as I’m concerned, should never have been a film and, therefore, does not exist.) The thing is, though, whether a chubby dweeb or overbearing douche bag, he entertains me.
21 Jump Street really has nothing to do with the TV show of old. Sure, both have the basic premise of a couple of young cops assigned to go undercover into a high school to investigate crime involving teenagers, but the similarities pretty much stop there. In the film released a few months ago, Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum play the screwball cops assigned to the operation whose headquarters reside at 21 Jump Street. They were pseudo-rivals in their own high school days, Hill being the intelligent, Slim Shady wannabe nerd and Tatum the popular jock skating by with a D-average. Once they enter the force, though, they develop a friendship wherein their strengths/weaknesses compliment each other. Bored with policing the park on their bicycles, they seize an opportunity to arrest (or try to) a known drug dealer. Inept as they are, they completely screw up the arrest and embarrass the police department, which is why they’re assigned to the defunct undercover operation down on Jump Street. Their mission: to enter high school as brothers, infiltrate the dealers and find the supplier of this new unnamed synthetic drug that has become the new fad and has killed a few kids.
The interesting little spin comes when Tatum accidentally calls himself by the wrong undercover name, thereby taking on the role of the nerd and giving Hill the identity of popular jock. While there’s nothing athletic about Jonah Hill, he pulls off the popular bit well enough. You see, high school has changed considerably since the ’90s and now to be cool is to be tolerant, to care about the environment, to be involved in social clubs and activist groups. Tatum has a little more trouble convincing his new classmates he’s smart but he manages to make a few nerdly friends who show him that science is, in fact, cool because it enables us to blow shit up.
There are several under-used cameos and while there is an actual plot, it’s pretty flimsy. That being said, 21 Jump Street is surprisingly entertaining and, at times, raucously funny. There’s a series of scenes about a half-hour in lasting 6 or 7 minutes or so that made me laugh until I cried. Literally. I rewound and rewatched that sequence no less than FOUR TIMES. Jonah Hill has never been funnier and even Channing Tatum, whom I usually find bland as a boiled potato, gets a few laughs. This isn’t a film to change your life or leave a mark on the world of cinematography, but it is a pleasant way to pass 109 minutes. And I guarantee it’ll make you laugh.