As a pair of 25-year-old rookie cops, actors Jonah Hill (29) and Channing Tatum (31) push the envelope, but the credibility of their characters is smashed when they are sent back to high school in order to bust a designer drug ring. Even if you buy it, the premise of this comedy makes "21 Jump Street" creepier than many horrors.
Since it's also a reboot of a middling '80s crime drama, the film sends up Hollywood remakes of mediocre material. No one is safe, including Capt. Dickson (Ice Cube), a self-proclaimed angry black man, miffed off over his assignment overseeing the revived 21 Jump Street program, because, "All they do is recycle sh-t from the past ... and expect us not to notice."
Capt. Dickson, a firm believer in stereotypes, informs his new recruits, "You've been assigned to go back to high school because you're too all immature for regular police work." It just so happens he's right, especially about beefcake Jenko - played by a blank-looking Tatum. The captain makes an underwater basket weaving class schedule for Jenko that includes track, band, P.E. and drama. Jenko's partner on the undercover assignment is Schmidt (Hill), who's lack of social skills and high academy grades prompts the captain to put the nerd in honors chemistry.
The film further plays with these types by switching their records, thus sending the jock into chemistry and the nerd into drama. That part of the film works well, as does requiring the recruits to pose as brothers and live with Schmidt's aging hippie mom (Caroline Aaron).
Schmidt is pleased to find himself accepted by the cool kids, including an ecology-obsessed, designer-drug dealer (Dave Franco), whose galpal Molly (Brie Larson), takes a shine to the new guy. Meanwhile, Jenko discovers that nerds dig blowing things up, and are geniuses when it comes to tapping cell phones.
The film, co-written by Hill, regularly sinks into vulgarity that trades polished wit for raunchy, homophobic, penis jokes. Likewise, the story's muddled action sequences consistently earn "C's" and "D's."
The situational humor works best when focused on the troubled friendship between its unlikely costars, and the unexpected elements each brings to his new high school clique. The setting provides an opportunity to make keen observations about the constantly shifting perspective of what is and isn't "cool" among teens, blaming the current environment of PC tolerance on TV shows such as "Glee."
Creepy bits included, there's little new here - but when it works, the story boldly goes where others have gone before.