Scott Garfield
Grady Smith
March 17, 2012 AT 08:48 PM EDT

From the first moments of 21 Jump Street, which I saw in a packed New York City theater last night, the whole audience was in stitches, and it wasn’t just because a bleach-blonde Jonah Hill strolled into his high school dressed as the Real Slim Shady.

As it turned out, the biggest laugh earner in the comedic adaptation was Channing Tatum. His genuinely stupid character, proficient in the athletic and fashion worlds but unable to remember all four lines of the Miranda rights or even his own undercover identity, turned out to be a genuinely brilliant guffaw-fetcher. The hesitatingly blank, slightly troubled expression that Tatum constantly wore drew massive uproars — apparently everyone, including EW critic Lisa Schwarzbaum, who wrote, “Tatum can sustain a great, I mean great, Dumb Face,” loves a confused bonehead!

Personally, I wasn’t expecting the star of Step Up, The Vow, and a rather lackluster edition of SNL earlier this year, to posses such self-aware comedic ability and natural timing, but his dumb jock persona meshed nicely with his smarter “brother,” played by Hill,  and it gave the bawdy buddy comedy just the right bit of soul. Somehow, Tatum made his character’s complete ineptitude utterly charming — a formula Rob Schneider has never figured out, despite years of trying. (The difference must be the abs…)

A few of his funniest moments:

1. Tatum’s obscene, um, thrusting as he straddled a handcuffed criminal.

2. His constant inability to gauge sarcasm. (“Are you being serious?”)

3. “You have the right to…. [insert incredibly inappropriate phrase here]” That joke worked every time.

4. Attempting to justify his reasoning (there was none) for punching a teenager in the face on the first day of school.

5. “App chemistry”

Now, over to you: What did you think of Tatum’s performance in 21 Jump Street? Has Hollywood  been underestimating his versatility as an actor? Would you like to see him return to the role for the potential sequel teased in the film’s final scene? Sound off in the comments below.

Side note: Have you ever heard the word “d–k” uttered onscreen so many times in one film? If 21 Jump Street had earned $1 for every time the male genitalia was mentioned, it might have taken in more money on its big opening day.

Follow me on Twitter: @EWGradySmith

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