21 Jump Street (2012) Review

Hey you! Yeah, you. Doubty McDoubt pants who threw 21 Jump Street under the bus before it released because it’s another Hollywood ’80s TV show do-over. You were worried they were going to butcher your memories of a classic TV shows and… well, actually, they DID butcher an ’80s TV show, but to a good cause.

Does 21 Jump Street have anything to do with the original series? Yes, in fact, if not until the final 10-minutes and via a fleeting cameo, but it’s something. It concerns young kids doing things they’re not supposed to, making another connection one could make, in addition to the idea of guys playing down their age. The framework is in place.

The rest is an excuse for Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum to play off each other like goofballs. 21 Jump Street freely admits to its failing conceptually, riffing on itself as it skirts the fourth wall line early. That setup is enough to spur the piece into a comedic bullet, rampaging into a flurry of R-rated comedy only superseded by those that choose to push into another level.

There is zero attempt to take any of this seriously, as much of a riff on modern high school as it is two guys trying reclaim their glory (or find it in the first place). Tatum and Hill slip undercover seven years post-graduation to sniff out a super drug parading around school grounds, ending up in a role reversal based on changing dynamics. Hill is held up as the superior cool kid, Tatum shoved into a world of chemistry geeks.

Jump Street doesn’t take a path of unpredictability, so straightforward it’s almost painful. Surprises lie squarely within the actions, or questioning what might explode, the latter the best running gag in some time. Short character arcs are more akin to straight lines; neither learns or suffers much in the way of repercussions.

Know what? No one cares. Ice Cube as an uber foul mouthed police captain? Golden. Rob Riggle as the abrasive gym teacher? Perfect casting. Ellie Kemper as the emotionally mixed and sexually deviant teacher? Comedy brilliance. Hill and Tatum? Chemistry brilliance.

There’s a specific audience for 21 Jump Street that likely eschews the crowd who adored the original material, shifting into the modern comedy takers who need a line of penis references. To those people who were looking for their nostalgic bones to be appeased, someone down the line apologizes, even if it’s on the way to the bank.

Movie ★★★★☆ 

For all of its genuine, heartfelt, emotional comedy (not really), 21 Jump Street is a total bore to look at. The problem source? Not this AVC encode. A mixture of film and digital, you might as well not even consider Sony’s compression as it exits as soon as the disc spins up. There are no signs of its existence anywhere.

The problems undoubtedly lie in post production in which this film was subdued and restricted. That, or the entire film was terribly under lit. Contrast would look more appealing if it were run over by a truck, because here pure white doesn’t happen. Whites are baked warmly, giving them a slightly orange glow that dims everything. The image is depressingly dull.

A lack of saturation doesn’t help, flesh tones pale and primaries held back for another movie apparently. Interiors or exteriors are of no help. The images fade into obscurity, as if infected by a dusty facade. As easy as it is to complain about the boosting in flesh tones for comedies these days, it would be a welcome reprieve in 21 Jump Street.

Being entirely unhelpful is the definition, something else the film never finds a comfortable groove with. Comprised mostly of medium shots, 21 Jump Street is glossy and weak. Close-ups are miniscule in their fine detail, and the best stuff is held for a few exteriors. How not exciting. Black levels are just above passable, which for this non-looker, is saying a lot.

Video ★★★☆☆ 

As dull as the film may be to look at it, there’s an equal within the audio. Gunfights, car chases, and on-foot action feels restrictive in positioning, left to the fronts without much space. Stereos barely make a move, and the surrounds are practically forgotten. Unlike most comedies, 21 Jump Street has a chance to impress, and doesn’t. At all.

The only recognition of high-end audio is the bass, which drives home substantial party music and two explosions. Those are exceptions in a flat, front-loaded mixture of perfect fidelity and lightweight atmosphere. There’s a brief moment around the halfway point where a shooting range confines the echo and forces the surrounds into action. How so much gunfire feels missed elsewhere is a mystery.

Audio ★★★☆☆ 

Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill join co-directors Christopher Miller & Phil Lord for the requisite commentary track, followed by a slew of equally funny material. Twenty deleted scenes run around a half hour, but the gag reel is where you’ll find the heart of the material. Cube-o-rama is two minutes of random Ice Cube improv which is nothing short of hilarious, while Back to School is an amusing making-of.

Brothers in Arms is general speak about the two leads, with Johnny Depp on Set following, and acting as a giant spoiler if you haven’t seen the movie. The Rob Riggle Show is a series of antics from the actor while the piece marches on about his character. Peter Pan on the Freeway details the expressway chase.

Video ★★★☆☆