Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Hackers Now Reportedly Say Sony Can Release 'The Interview,' But With Changes Hackers Now Reportedly Say Sony Can Release 'The Interview,' But With Changes George Clooney Pushes For VOD Release Of 'The Interview,' Calls Out Hollywood For Lack Of Courage George Clooney Pushes For VOD Release Of 'The Interview,' Calls Out Hollywood For Lack Of Courage Watch: Sony Releases "In Franco And Rogen We Trust" Promo For 'The Interview' Watch: Sony Releases "In Franco And Rogen We Trust" Promo For 'The Interview' Watch: The Style Of Wes Anderson, Quentin Tarantino, David Fincher, Terrence Malick & More Recreated With Stock Footage Watch: The Style Of Wes Anderson, Quentin Tarantino, David Fincher, Terrence Malick & More Recreated With Stock Footage Surprising Full Cast Revealed For Jason Reitman's Live Read Of 'Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back' Surprising Full Cast Revealed For Jason Reitman's Live Read Of 'Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back' Sony Officially Yanks 'The Interview' From Release Following Hacker Threats Sony Officially Yanks 'The Interview' From Release Following Hacker Threats The 21 Best Performances Of 2014 The 21 Best Performances Of 2014 The 12 Best Shots Of 2014 The 12 Best Shots Of 2014 Baffling First Official Synopsis For Terrence Malick's 'Knight Of Cups' Unveiled Baffling First Official Synopsis For Terrence Malick's 'Knight Of Cups' Unveiled Rumor: 'Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice' Will Address Fan Complaints From 'Man Of Steel' Rumor: 'Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice' Will Address Fan Complaints From 'Man Of Steel' Watch: Christian Bale Goes On A Hedonistic Journey In First Trailer For Terrence Malick's 'Knight Of Cups' Watch: Christian Bale Goes On A Hedonistic Journey In First Trailer For Terrence Malick's 'Knight Of Cups' The 20 Best Movie Posters Of 2014 The 20 Best Movie Posters Of 2014 Recap: 'The Newsroom' Series Finale, Season 3, Episode 6 'What Kind Of Day Has It Been' Recap: 'The Newsroom' Series Finale, Season 3, Episode 6 'What Kind Of Day Has It Been' More Leaks Reveal Reported Plans Around ‘Star Wars’ Episodes 8 & 9 More Leaks Reveal Reported Plans Around ‘Star Wars’ Episodes 8 & 9 Sony Leaks Reveal ‘Aquaman’ Director, ‘X-Men’/’Fantastic Four’ Crossover Plans & More Sony Leaks Reveal ‘Aquaman’ Director, ‘X-Men’/’Fantastic Four’ Crossover Plans & More Review: Assassination Comedy ‘The Interview’ Starring Seth Rogen, James Franco, And Lizzy Caplan Review: Assassination Comedy ‘The Interview’ Starring Seth Rogen, James Franco, And Lizzy Caplan The 20 Best Films Of 2014 The 20 Best Films Of 2014 Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki

10 Reasons Why '21 Jump Street' Exceeded Expectations

Photo of Oliver Lyttelton By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist March 19, 2012 at 12:57PM

On paper, "21 Jump Street" was not an enticing proposition. A reboot of a 1980s TV series with a ludicrous premise -- fresh-faced cops go undercover as high school students. Produced by Neal Moritz, a man whose last attempt at an action-comedy reboot of a famous property was the dreadful "The Green Hornet." Directed by two first-time live-action feature directors. Written by the man behind "Project X." And starring Jonah Hill, coming off a terrible R-rated comedy flop, in "The Sitter," and Channing Tatum, a man whose previous turns weren't so much performed as whittled out of wood. 
8
21 Jump Street

On paper, "21 Jump Street" was not an enticing proposition. A reboot of a 1980s TV series with a ludicrous premise -- fresh-faced cops go undercover as high school students. Produced by Neal Moritz, a man whose last attempt at an action-comedy reboot of a famous property was the dreadful "The Green Hornet." Directed by two first-time live-action feature directors. Written by the man behind "Project X." And starring Jonah Hill, coming off a terrible R-rated comedy flop, in "The Sitter," and Channing Tatum, a man whose previous turns weren't so much performed as whittled out of wood. 

And yet, "21 Jump Street" was a success, opening to a hugely impressive $35 million over the weekend. And more importantly, it was also really, really good, arguably the best studio movie of this young year to date, and one of the funniest comedies in years. So what happened? What separated the film, directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, and written by Michael Bacall, from the dozens of other R-rated comedies in the last few years? The film's certainly got problems (a drawn-out ending, a weak villain), but for the most part, it works like gangbusters, and we've gone in depth, to examine why the film is such an unlikely triumph. Spoilers ahead.

Jonah Hill Channing Tatum 21 Jump Street
1) Wastes Little Time, Develops Its Leads Fast & Dives Right Into The Story
While generally speaking, you’ll hear us advocate for character and story development, there are always exceptions to the rule. And “21 Jump Street” is one of them. The script by Michael Bacall, from a story hatched with Jonah Hill, opens with a compact, concise ten minutes that essentially is wrapped up in one line:  “Wanna be friends?” Recognizing that Schmidt’s booksmarts would meld perfect with his own physicality, Jenko extends the olive branch, the two race through Academy training thanks to a hilarious montage, and then we’re dropped right into their careers as rookie cops. While we’ll get bits and pieces filled in as the movie continues, Bacall and directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller choose to go straight to the plot and comedy, and it’s a smart play, one that establishes the film as a raucous ride, right from the start.

2) A Lean & Satisfying Script
That opening ten minutes are a good indicator of how the film as a whole will play out: unusually for most modern comedies, there's not a lot of fat on the bones. Even the best of the Judd Apatow stable ("Knocked Up," "Bridesmaids") feel a little overlong and sluggish in places, but "21 Jump Street" moves at a crackerjack pace throughout. It digresses occasionally, but those threads never feel indulgent, and generally the more leftfield moments are working towards some greater purpose in terms of setting up character or plot: even the drug freakout sequence pays off when Molly blows Schmidt and Jenko's cover at the worst possible moment. There’s a tightness to Bacall’s scripting that’s reminiscent of Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s films -- unsurprising when you consider that Bacall co-wrote “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World.” They all know that when the set-up and the punchline are really in harmony, you don't just laugh, but you feel inherently satisfied. A case in point...

Ice Cube Jonah Hill Channing Tatum 21 Jump Street
3) The Brilliant And Hilarious Car Chase Sequence
The easy way to take “21 Jump Street” would’ve been to go down the action route, packing it with explosions, while Tatum and Hill throw quips back and forth. Instead, the film wisely prefers to send up the genre instead, all while playing within the framework, and when it comes time to the centerpiece action sequence, “21 Jump Street” gleefully subverts convention at the same time. Running afoul of a motorcycle gang, Schmidt and Jenko wind up in a freeway chase. For the duo who expect their careers to be like what they’ve seen on TV, things don’t quite go as planned. Directors Lord and Miller make the sequence a showcase for their comic timing -- something that approaches a “Looney Tunes” sensibility here -- as two trucks (incuding one hilariously stenciled “Oil & Fuel”) come in path of the bullets and bikes and...nothing happens. Jenko and Schmidt are baffled, but when it comes to the innocent looking chicken truck...the audience set up with two missed explosions knows what’s coming. That it’s still insanely funny is all due to the work of Lord and Miller who show that sometimes the buildup, is even better than the punchline.

This article is related to: 21 Jump Street, Features, Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, Michael Bacall, Brie Larson, Dave Franco


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates