Two bungling cops are sent deep undercover to expose a high school drugs ring in Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s deliciously foul-mouthed buddy movie that rides roughshod over political correctness.
Based on the popular 1980s TV crime series, which transformed Johnny Depp into a teen idol before he made his mark on the big screen in Edward Scissorhands, 21 Jump Street is a testosterone-fuelled hoot.
Logic has no place in Michael Bacall’s irreverent script, which treats the initial set-up with the disdain it deserves then trades heavily on the comic timing of its intentionally mismatched leads.
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum gleefully poke fun at their screen personas of the overweight nerd and dumb hunk, bumbling through a potentially perilous mission with gusto.
The film opens in 2005 with high school student Morton Schmidt (Hill) dressed like Slim Shady, clashing in the hallway with sniggering doofus Greg Jenko (Tatum).
Seven years later, they both enrol at police academy and work together to ensure they complete the physical and academic elements of the final exam.
Life as cops turns out to be quite dull - “I really thought this job would have more car chases and explosions,” rues Morton - and their first bust ends in embarrassment.
So they are sent in disgrace to Captain Dickson (Ice Cube), who orders the pair to pose as sibling students at the local school where drugs are rife.
Any concerns about the cops’ obvious physical maturity are quickly dispelled.
“They’re teenagers. They’re really stupid. So you should fit right in!” barks the Captain.
Morton becomes a popular member of the student body thanks to his brains and sensitivity while lumbering hunk Greg is viewed as an idiot by everyone except his teacher Ms Griggs (Ellie Kemper), who would love to give him some one-on-one tuition.
While Morton engages in a tender romance with drama student Molly (Brie Larson), the cops identify fellow student Eric Molson (Dave Franco) as the dealer and work to bring down the drugs ring.
21 Jump Street is a treat, mining laughs from the camaraderie between Tatum and Hill, the latter unexpectedly suffering a knife wound and squealing, “When did I get stabbed? That’s awesome!”
Every set piece is brilliantly bonkers, occasionally veering into gross-out humour but never sacrificing our affection for the characters.
A car chase in a stretched limousine on prom night is hysterical, as Greg rebuffs the advances of one amorous girl to catch the bad guys: “You’re really hot and slutty and that’s awesome but I got to shoot people right now!”
Depp does indeed cameo as Officer Tom Hans from the original show at a vital juncture, giving his seal of approval to Lord and Miller’s madcap reboot.
By Damon Smith
:: SWEARING :: SEX :: VIOLENCE :: RATING: 7/10
Released: March 16 (UK & Ireland), 109 mins