Tatum proves he's smarter than he looks in '21 Jump Street'

2012-03-15T09:00:00Z 2012-03-23T07:49:19Z Tatum proves he's smarter than he looks in '21 Jump Street'BY JOE WILLIAMS • Post-Dispatch Film Critic • joewilliams@post-dispatch.com • 314-340-8344 stltoday.com

Channing Tatum has at least four movies slated for release this year, including a "G.I. Joe" sequel, the weepie "The Vow" and Steven Soderbergh's "Magic Mike," which fictionalizes Tatum's real-life rise from male stripper to movie star. But the smartest thing that this seemingly dumb hunk has done is to embrace his reputation in this comic remake of an '80s cop show.

He's not in Mark Wahlberg's league, and "21 Jump Street" isn't quite as funny as "The Other Guys," but by lampooning himself here, Tatum has bought himself a grace period to grow in.

Neither Jenko (Tatum) nor Schmidt (Jonah Hill) have grown much since they were enemies in high school. At the police academy, Schmidt is still the physically challenged brain and Jenko is still the intellectually challenged brawn, but by banding together, they earn their stripes.

Streetwise Capt. Dickson (Ice Cube) recruits the rookie cops to go undercover at a suburban high school and break up a drug ring. But through a paperwork mix-up, Jenko ends up in the math and science classes, while Schmidt ends up on the track team and in the drama club.

Like Tatum, "21 Jump Street" is slightly smarter than it seems. Because the undercover cops are a decade out of step, they have to face their fears and preconceptions. Social misfit Schmidt works up the courage to text message his pretty "Peter Pan" co-star (Brie Larson), and once-popular jock Jenko is shocked to learn it's no longer cool to bully his geeky or gay classmates. But mostly the movie is juiced by crude humor, and much of it sticks.

Although it was written and directed by the team behind the animated family film "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs," this R-rated flick is more salty than sweet. Even if you think you've graduated from genital jokes and violent slapstick, the laughing gas around "21 Jump Street" may get you hooked.


"21 Jump Street"

Three stars (out of four) • Rating R • Run time 1:49 • Content Crude and sexual content, pervasive strong language, drug material and violence

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