03/09/2012 11:56 am ET Updated May 09, 2012

Channing Tatum, '21 Jump Street' Star, Is Hollywood's Best Hope For Leading Man-Dom?

A funny thing about "21 Jump Street," the raucous R-rated comedy starring Jonah Hill, which opens in theaters next Friday: Channing Tatum, the supposed muscle opposite Hill's one-liners, completely steals the show. Chan, as his friends call him (we're tight), spoofs his own beefcake-status in the new comedy, while also proving himself to be an adept comedian. (Watch him drop some epic profanity on science in the extended red-band trailer to see his comedic dexterity in action.) It's a star-making turn, which might be perfect timing for Hollywood. After all, with the current crop of leading men -- Tom, Johnny, Leo, Brad, George -- aging into their 40s and 50s, movies are in need of some fresh blood.

"Part of his appeal is old-fashioned movie star charisma -- that 'it factor' that really is a real thing," Amy Pascal, the co-chairwoman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, which is releasing "Jump Street," told the New York Times. Pascal has become entrenched in the business of Tatum this year: he also starred in the studio's blockbuster rom-com, "The Vow."

"He has now shown that he can hold a gun, kiss a girl and tell a joke. Most actors are lucky if they can believably do one of those," she said.

While actors like Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner and Shia LaBeouf have difficulty breaking out at the box office beyond the friendly confines of their franchises, the busy Tatum has constantly defied expectations: from "Step Up" to "Dear John" to "G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra" to "The Vow," he's had his fair share of diverse successes. That malleability is something Tatum knows is important to his brand.

"Taking a break is a problem because audiences today have attention-deficit disorder," he said to the Times. "They forget you quickly or get tired of seeing you do one thing quickly. You've got to be in there swinging all the time."

Or, as CinemaBlend's Katey Rich wrote earlier this year, "He's got a gentle, up-for-anything spirit that seems to translate into all of his films, giving his characters the kind of inherent likability that no actor can fully fake."

"21 Jump Street" premieres at the SXSW Film Festival on Monday, March 12 before hitting theaters on March 16.

[via NYT]

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