Jonah Hill is fast becoming one of the biggest actors in Hollywood. If one were to look at his early work, no indication of such a title would be found. Consider, for example, Hill's early roles in films like "Superbad" and "Accepted." Hill was memorable, yet there was nothing in his performances that indicated that he was a great talent. Last year, however, Hill surprised everyone when he starred opposite Brad Pitt in the Best Picture nominee "Moneyball." His work in that film garnered him a much deserved Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination and gave him the attention of Hollywood and moviegoers alike.
The release of "21 Jump Street," Hill's first film major film since "Moneyball," had me asking one important question: will Hill digress back into his sub-par comedic performances or will he continue with the trend he helped start with "Moneyball?" Looking at the finished product, there is evidence that Hill is indeed on an uphill climb as an actor. While "21 Jump Street" is by no means a comedy classic, the performances and writing are both enjoyable.
Based on the 80's television series of the same name, "21 Jump Street" is about a pair of high school enemies who, after becoming cops, are sent to a local high school to attempt to bring down a drug affecting teen youth. The premise isn't all that original, but to be fair the story (which Hill helped create) and the screenplay are fresh enough to draw in a whole new group of moviegoers. My one biggest problem with the script is that it often resorts to easy jokes, inserting teen slang and other off-the-wall expressions. It seems to misrepresents an entire group of young adults and the script often stereotypes characters in the worst possible way. Still, "21 Jump Street" doesn't promise to be a classic in the making. At the end of the day, the film does what it is supposed to, and the flaws and downfalls of the story and screenplay are ultimately overcome by everything else within the film.
As previously discussed, the performance of Hill is actually quite good. It's a step up from "Superbad" and Hill seems to have gained the ability to infuse both side-splitting laughs and heartfelt moments into his performance. Unlike in his previous films, Hill is no longer one-note. We laugh along with his character but we also come to care for him.
Along with Hill, costar Channing Tatum also surprised in his role. In his earlier films, Tatum seems to have fallen victim to typecasting. He was generally used for his looks and his performances seemed to lack any motivation or true inspiration. That's not the case here. Like Hill, Tatum creates a character that audiences can both laugh at and relate to. Together, Hill and Tatum seem to be the perfect team.
When talking about the performances, it is worth noting that Johnny Depp and Peter DeLuise (the main stars of the original TV series) both show up in rather effective cameos. The star power of Depp is not allowed to detract from the overall film, and the brief appearance of both actors seems to have been the correct move to make as an homage to the old television series that started it all.
After the credits of "21 Jump Street" have rolled what we're really left with is a highly entertaining comedy. It's not an award-winning film, yet that's not what it is supposed to be. It is, by all accounts, however, a good movie. Furthermore, it is much better than most of the teen comedies currently being released by Hollywood. Should you sit down and watch it I think that you will find your two hours well spent.