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Using “21 Jump Street,” the cinematic spinoff loosely based on the guilty-pleasure TV drama, as a progress-meter for the gay community is probably a bit ridiculous, but you have to give it up to the filmmakers for its anti-hateration: no, it’s not cool to punch a gay black kid.
When a pair of dimwitted undercover cops, resigned to a converted church run by Captain Dickson (Ice Cube), head back to high school for a drug bust, they realize all that’s changed: the “in” kids aren’t the jocks and slackers; they’re the tree-hugging brainiacs – and gays – who deal narcotics. And wearing your backpack single-shoulder? So last decade.
And therein lies the underlying hilarity of watching Channing Tatum, the stupid hot one, and Jonah Hill, the smart ugly one, team up as Jenko and Schmidt, respectively: meatball and meathead, together to take down the bad guys. Only they’re not exactly hotshots. One’s too wimpy to fire a shot; the other’s clueless about Miranda rights. And they both like to ceremonialize a triumphant capture by dry-humping the criminals (ooh la la).
The initial-scene setup is the launching pad for non-stop silliness: we learn of Schmidt’s uncool Eminem phase and Jenko’s douchiness toward him for asking a girl who’s beyond him to prom. But who’s the cool one now, bitches – it’s Schmidt, who gets chummy with the school’s drug-dealing crackerjack, Eric (Dave Franco, brother to James), and charms a cute chick named Molly (Brie Larson). Jenko’s stuck learning what covalent bonds are with the chem nerds.
Tatum is awesomely dopey (fully redeeming himself for his stiff romantic-lead role recently in “The Vow”), playing off of Hill’s wise-guy school-smarts in one of the best comedic duos in years. Both guys are game for anything (especially relentless dick-sucking jokes) and riotous to watch, whether in a shoot-out they’re ill-equipped for, while helping each other hurl (“Let’s finger each other’s mouths”), or learning the hard way that, in these times, tolerance is hip.
A line like this, then – “Fuck you, ‘Glee’!” – is brilliantly funny in the scope of this meta, culturally in-touch comedy. It’s “Superbad” crossed with “Never Been Kissed,” in which Drew Barrymore was an incognito journalist, but fully self-aware of everything: how Jenko looks “40 fucking years old” even though he’s posing as a high-school student, the relevance of the “Twittersphere,” and that all we do is “recycle shit from the past.” Truth.
“21 Jump Street,” however, knows how to turn near-shit into comedy gold, making it the funniest movie since “Bridesmaids” (speaking of, props to scene-stealer Ellie Kemper as hot-for- student Ms. Griggs). It’s ball-busting funny throughout, crude to the max, and even affectionately bromantic. And hey, who can deny its evolved moral: You can never have enough penis.