It's been a lean period for genuinely humourous comedy films lately. The last offering that truly stands-out is 'Bridesmaids', which was duly (and surprisingly) recognised at the Oscars with a Best Original Screenplay nomination. '21 Jump Street' carries much the same sentiment as the former film, and while it may not be garnering quite the critical acclaim of 'Bridesmaids', it's very much a hilarious and ridiculous buddy cop action-comedy.
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as Schmidt and Jenko, two opposing forces at high school brought together upon signing up to become police officers. After a botched first arrest, completed in a ludicrous manner that sets the tone for the rest of the film, they are moved into a new division based at 21 Jump Street. The new project, led by the fearsome Ice Cube, sees youthful looking police officers go undercover in high schools to crack open cases. Preferably not of beer.
The original '21 Jump Street' TV series may have set one of its stars, Johnny Depp, on a path to future stardom and it could yet prove similar for both Hill and Tatum. The duo have an excellent chemistry, and play to their strengths - namely one looking dazed and confused and the other appearing increasingly neurotic. I'll let you guess which is which. Both deliver fine performances, although nothing here shakes my befuddlement of Hill's Oscar nomination for 'Moneyball'.
The film is at its best when it avoids its numerous penis jokes and farcical action scenes, instead finding its way as a character-driven spiky high school comedy in the vein of 'Mean Girls'. Not to say that the penile humour and sub-'Bad Boys' action scenes are particularly terrible but they appear to be alternately too try-hard and lazy. And sometimes simultaneously.
The film's relative inconsistency could be a criticism that could perhaps be levelled at each of the filmmakers - from co-writers Michael Bacall and Jonah Hill, to the film's directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller (best known for enjoyable family animation, 'Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs' of all things). Yet for all its off-putting moments, there's still a great deal of raucous comedy and relatable drama at the heart of '21 Jump Street'. This is a film that appeals to "nerds" and "jocks" and everyone in between.
It may have been an incredibly brave move remaking an eighties TV show with the unexpectedly capable Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum as leading men. But it's certainly one that's paid off. '21 Jump Street' may not be the intellectual's choice as a shining example of 2012 cinema but it remains one of the funniest films of the year, capped off by some delicious cameos as the film hurtles toward its conclusion.
'21 Jump Street' is on wide release throughout UK cinemas now.