Movie review: “21 Jump Street”


Partner and I, for various reasons, were feeling in need of a nice entertaining movie on Sunday.  The big movie of the weekend, of course, was “The Hunger Games,” which involves lots of nice fresh-faced teenagers killing one another, so we didn’t think that would quite entertain us in the right way.  And none of the movies we’re really looking forward to (“The Three Stooges” with Sean Hayes and Will Sasso!  “Wrath of the Titans” with Liam Neeson!  “The Avengers” with everybody under the sun!) has come out quite yet.



So we took a chance on “21 Jump Street,” with Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill.



We snorted with laughter through the whole thing.



This is comedy done right.  It’s hugely over-the-top: Channing, as the muscular cute dumb guy, is too dumb for words; Jonah, as the plump sensitive smart guy, is much too delighted with himself when he finally gets some recognition.  The original 1980s TV show (which, I have to admit, I didn’t really watch) was afterschool-special serious: overage actors infiltrating high schools to uncover plots dealing with drugs, guns, crime.  This movie makes glorious fun of this conceit.  Channing Tatum is gigantic and obviously much too old to be in high school; no one takes him seriously for a moment. 



Which brings us to the crux of the matter: Channing Tatum.



You know that I subscribe to the “Libby Gelman-Waxner Rule” concerning movies and actors.  Libby, a movie reviewer for “Premiere” magazine back in the 1990s (who was actually Paul Rudnick writing under a pseudonym) was responding to a reader’s letter.  “Libby,” the writer said, “you seem to like or dislike movies depending on whether or not you think the leading actor is attractive.  Libby, that’s not what movies are all about.”  To which Libby responded, simply: “Oh yes they are.”



This is one of the most enlightened comments anyone has ever made about the movie industry.  You could also call it the “Hugh Jackman rule” or the “Daniel Craig rule,” but let’s call it “Libby’s rule” for the sake of historicity.



Anyway: Channing Tatum is fabulous in this movie.  We first see him as a jerky 2005 high-school kid with long stringy hair, smirking at Jonah Hill’s failed attempt to ask a pretty girl to the prom; then as a police-academy trainee who can wrestle any perp to the ground in three seconds or less, but who can’t memorize the Miranda rights; then as a cop, partnered with his old enemy Jonah Hill.  He is carefree and goofy and very sexy.  (While he’s undercover in high school, his chemistry teacher is hypnotized by him.  “No!” she shrieks.  “Don’t look at me!  Look at me!  No, don’t look at me!”)



If you saw him a few months ago on Saturday Night Live, you’ll know what I mean.  He has a nonchalance and charm that some of the other meaty cuties of the day – Sam Worthington, Tom Hardy – just don’t have.  (You know he was a stripper, right?  I have a feeling he learned it there.  He’s unashamed of his body, and very sure of himself, and he likes being admired.)



But enough about Channing.  Heaven knows I could talk about him all day long.



The movie is very cute.  We laughed a lot, actually.  The MacGuffin that pushes the plot forward is a drug called HFC, which makes people do very peculiar things.  (The drug and its effects are key in a couple of very funny scenes.)  There are lots of good actors in small roles: Chris Parnell from “SNL” / “30 Rock”, Nick Offerman from “Parks and Recreation,” Ice Cube as an angry police captain, even a couple of cameos (I won’t tell you!) from the TV version of “21 Jump Street.”



And Channing Tatum wrestling with Jonah Hill.  Channing Tatum clobbering Jonah Hill over the head with a big stuffed giraffe.  Channing Tatum straddling a perp at the beginning of the movie . . .






I give this movie my very highest recommendation.



Go see it.



About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to

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