“21 Jump Street” was the sixth most illegally downloaded film of 2012. (Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures)
With this article, I reached the milestone of having 100 articles, mostly movie reviews, published with the UMass Lowell Connector. Over the past three years of me doing this, I know I have garnered attention as being “That guy who hates all of the movies,” and I thought as a treat to mark this occasion, I would review the first movie I saw where I had this vastly different and negative reaction to it compared to everyone else. Ladies and gentlemen, that movie was the 2012 comedy film “21 Jump Street.”
“21 Jump Street” does everything wrong. Not only is every major component wrong, but if one were to examine the movie closely, every single second of the film would most likely purvey an egregious or incompetent issue.
Once antagonists to each other in high school, police recruits Jenko (Channing Tatum) and Schmidt (Jonah Hill) befriend one another at police academy and are assigned to an undercover assignment. That undercover assignment: go back to high school and figure out who is selling drugs to students?
Right off the bat, the emotional core of the movie is horribly established. The relationship between Jenko and Schmidt is what the audience is supposed to latch on to, but the way their relationship is established is by them becoming friends for selfish reasons. Schmidt uses Jenko to pass the physical aspects of police training while Jenko uses Schmidt to pass the academic parts. That is all the audience sees before a montage of clips where the audience is just supposed to accept that they are now true friends. This ruins the rest of the movie because when things start to decline in their friendship, there is no reason to want them to make up because their relationship was formulated on selfish reasons, not true camaraderie.
As this toxic and poorly developed relationship ruins the film throughout its two hour run time, so too does the comedy, if it can even be called that. The jokes in “21 Jump Street” are the lowest of the low, with the funny moments mostly being made up of characters yelling or swearing. It is not only lazy, but more importantly, it is beyond unfunny.
Is it really surprising that the jokes and comedy are terrible in what is probably one of the worst screenplays ever written, though? Everything from the jokes to the characters to the story are done badly, and that is all on screen writer Michael Bacall. The story is badly written, and the characters are inconsistent.
In terms of story, everything is put into place because Jenko is dumb and gets their identities mixed up when he and Schmidt go to the principal’s office. Instead of just going to their pre-decided classes and coming up with a reasonable explanation as to why the screw up happened in the first place, both characters just decide to go to each other’s classes because everything is already screwed up and it would be fun to do.
An example of inconsistent character comes within the first ten minutes of the movie. Schmidt and Jenko make an arrest, and Schmidt fires his weapon up into the air in celebration. Jenko has been established as the dumb one who can barely comprehend police protocol, yet Schmidt is the one who fires a pistol into the air in the middle of a public park. That is literally dumber than anything Jenko does.
This inconsistency with the characters, mixed with the ruined emotional core, helps indicate another one of the movie’s major issues, which is that the main characters are beyond unlikable. As it has already been established, both are selfish and dumb, but on top of that they are awful police officers. In police comedies, it needs to be established that these police characters, while eccentric, are still capable at their jobs. A perfect example of this is Frank Drebin (Leslie Nilsen) from “The Naked Gun” trilogy. In “21 Jump Street,” Schmidt and Jenko can barely do any of their police duties, and just go around harassing and abusing people while breaking the law at every turn they make. The best-case scenario is that they are characters with zero redeeming qualities who might say something funny to make the audience laugh. That is not good.
“21 Jump Street” is not good. Nor is it funny. It has nothing to offer.
Final Grade: F