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9 May 2012

21 Jump Street

21 Jump Street will leave you breathless from all that laughing.

Director: Phil Lord, Chris Miller

Screenplay: Jonah Hill, Michael Bacall

Cast: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube, Dave Franco, Brie Larson

Yes, 21 Jump Street is an adaptation of the 1980s television drama series about 'youthful looking' cops being assigned as undercover students to bust crime in high schools. The original was popcorn fare but these days, we remember it for making pre-Burton Johnny Depp a household name. This time round, it's a cop buddy comedy about two very dim policemen who find themselves in a 21 Jump Street revival project.

The not-so-serious adaptation of the 80s cop drama owes a great debt to the funnyman's brand of comedy. Like Ferrell's The Other Guys, this is a buddy cop comedy that spoofs the cop buddy genre, while fuelled by furious ad-libbing and comic mayhem. The film's premise enables hilarity at all levels. On the first level, there is a surfeit of bawdy jokes, double entendres and physical comedy that should keep you on a buzz. On another level, there are running gags that arise out of the film's awareness that it is a comedy. If its premise and plot points are so ridiculous, why not get a few laughs out of them? Then at the meta-textual level, there is the spoofing of both the buddy cop and high school genres, duking it out with 'wrong genre-savvy' gags that poke fun how crimefighting and high school life have changed considerably since the 1980s.

When so many loony factors collide into each other at various levels, the result is a cheerfully demented, surreal madcap comedy. The film hits a bull's eye whenever Channing Tatum, playing the straight man to Hill's typecast chubby manchild with a heart of gold, draws on his vast reserve of unexplored comic potential (which was tantalisingly hinted at in The Vow).

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