Exactly six years ago, I went to the movies with my parents and was first introduced to the Godliness that is Channing Tatum. I was a high school senior and we bought tickets to see “She’s the Man,” which stars one of my childhood favorites, Amanda Bynes. Her career unfortunately peaked at that time (and she apparently quit acting a few short years later?), and Channing Tatum just couldn’t seem to pick up another good role.
Though “Dear John” and the horrendous “Step Up” franchise were disappointments (aside from landing him a wife, which I suppose is a let-down for us salivating reviewers and fans), Channing Tatum definitely made his comeback in the newly released “21 Jump Street.” Saying goodbye to my visiting friends this morning put me in a somber mood for the day, but I’d heard good things about “21 Jump Street” and remembered that Channing Tatum had cheered me up during a rough period in 2006, so I went and saw it this evening. My friend and I had to sit in one of the front rows because the cinema was so packed, but being that close to Channing Tatum is hardly a punishment, even though that kind of attractiveness puts me in visual overload.
Anyway, “21 Jump Street” boosted my spirits and actually brought me back to my own high school days, as that is what the film is about. “21 Jump Street” begins in 2005, when Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) are high school seniors. The first scene opens with Eminem’s “Slim Shady” playing in the background, and you understand why the instant you see Schmidt, who looks like a bloated version of the troubled rapper, who, might I add, had pretty much disappeared from the face of the earth by 2005. His glory days took place during my freshman year in 2002, but perhaps that’s the whole point of Schmidt’s image: He’s way behind on the times and out of style:
Jenko, on the other hand, is the big man on campus and bullies Schmidt, whom he dubs a “nerd.” Jenko seems behind on the times as well with his long hair (I was in high school in 2005 and no one dressed like either of these guys), but that must be a nod to the original Johnny Depp series.
Jenko may be popular, but his low grades prevent him from attending prom. Schmidt of course is too uncool to get a date for the affair, so neither of them go. Seven years later, however, they find themselves training together in the police academy and inexplicably choose to band together. When their drug bust goes up in flames thanks to Jenko’s lack of knowledge of the Miranda Right’s, they’re assigned to go undercover at their former high school to catch students selling a deadly new substance. Because he enjoyed his teen years, Jenko is excited to return to high school, but Schmidt worries about reliving the hardest time of his life.
As they both see upon returning to their stomping grounds, the high school dynamic is much different in 2012 than it was in 2005. Jenko is perplexed that the popular kids are now “geeky, crunchy granola hippies” who have no use for him. The shift stuns Schmidt as well, who says, “All the popular students are nerds. I would have been the coolest person in high school had it been this way seven years ago.” Jenko blames “Glee” for the change, but Schmidt actually becomes part of the popular crowd as Jenko finds himself mingling with science geeks. He learns he’s smarter than anyone has ever realized and that he’s done with the nonsense of being liked for the sake of being liked. They roam in drastically different social circles than they did nearly a decade earlier.
Schmidt attaches himself to Eric (portrayed by Dave Franco, who has got to desist with the faux New York accent. Seriously, Franco boys, you’re from PALO ALTO, CALIFORNIA, enough with the east coast emulations!), the big man on campus who finds Jenko dumb and narrow-minded. Eric prides himself on being super liberal, intelligent, and the dude in charge of the campus drug ring. He’s your stereotypical over-privileged wealthy high school student who makes good grades and dabbles into illegal activity because his first world problems have become unbearable and he’ll stop at nothing to be intriguing (if you can’t already tell, I grew up with far too many entitled assholes like this).
Eric’s pseudo-girlfriend Molly won’t touch the drugs, but she likes hooking up with Eric from time to time even though the two are not technically a couple. This of course is an obvious in for Schmidt, who has a thing for Molly even though she is barely legal and would probably be a little disturbed to know he’s a 24-year-old police officer.
Jenko and Schmidt make progress on the high school drug bust in different ways. Schmidt becomes closer to Eric and Jenko begins regularly hanging out with the uber nerds, who get a hold of Eric’s phone and track his whereabouts at all times. Though you’re happy that Schmidt finally feels comfortable with his identity and accepted, you can’t help thinking he’s pathetic for trying to impress a bunch of 17-year-olds and get with a much younger girl. Jenko, who was once a jerk, never lost his spark but is actually more likable than Schmidt because he’s not desperate to be adored. He is past that stage of life and more invested in work, and ironically Schmidt’s rise to the top briefly tears them apart.
“You made fun of me!” Jenko says.
“I was bullied for four years in high school and you couldn’t take five minutes of it,” Schmidt responds.
While I understand the long-lasting effects of bullying and love seeing former nerds dominate in the real world, I couldn’t side with Jonah Hill’s character on this one. He just isn’t as grown up as Jenko, but thankfully their little spat is short-lived.
The movie as a whole is well-written and will bring you back to your carefree high school days (before you ever processed the concept of a full-time job and bill paying!). “21 Jump Street” ends well and is set up perfectly for a sequel, so hopefully there will be a second film. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum have amazing chemistry, and I was impressed by Tatum’s comedic abilities. Up until this movie hit theaters, I thought he was only mostly good for eye candy, but he’ll make you laugh countless times throughout the movie. If you’re anything like me, you’ll appreciate seeing a pansy spoiled high school student with too much money get taken down, so there’s that too. As Tatum puts it, “They don’t serve Vegan in jail, bitch.”