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Published on March 15th, 2012 | by simeon


21 Jump Street

Back in 1987, the fledgling Fox Network debuted, offering entertainment on Saturday and Sunday evenings aimed at a younger audience. One of the network’s first breakout shows was a police drama with young cops and plenty of action, a show named 21 Jump Street. The show featured a cast of largely unknowns who quickly bolted to overnight notoriety, most notably its star Johnny Depp who, much to his chagrin, became a pinup boy and sex symbol for the show.

The show mixed humor, action, and romance. It followed a team of young officers who were part of a special undercover unit that infiltrated high schools and colleges where they posed as students to solve various campus crimes. Johnny Depp left the show after the fourth season, wanting to be taken seriously as a legitimate actor. The show soon ended one year later. Despite having run only five seasons and having a short-lived spinoff series for star Richard Grieco, “21 Jump Street” remained a pop-culture hit 25 years later.

As such, I had a lot of skepticism when I first heard that Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum would be bringing an updated, raunchier version to the big screen that was heavy on laughs and would definitely aim for an R-rated. This theatrical version stars Hill as Officer Schmidt and Tatum as Officer Jenko, two young officers who met while in high school and, despite being on opposite ends of the social spectrum, bonded and became close friends during their time at the police academy years after graduation. When the duo find their lives as bike cops not as exciting as they had hoped and after they bungle their first chance at a significant arrest, the duo find themselves reassigned to the revived Jump Street project.

Schmidt, in spite of his misgivings, decides to face his fear of the horror that was high school decides to give it another chance. Jenko is soon horrified to see that the social structure that he dominated back in his day has clearly turned upside down. Jocks are no longer the big men on campus, replaced by sensitive New Age types. Nerds that he preyed upon are now the cool kids in school.

After the death of a student who took a new designer drug he bought at school, Schmidt and Jenko are assigned to find the dealers, infiltrate the gang and get to the bottom of the drug distribution ring and stop it at all costs. This proves to be easier said than done, especially for Schmidt. He begins to really relish his new found popularity in school and he starts to live the high school experience that he only dreamed about back in his day. Further complicating matters is Molly (Brie Larson), an attractive high school senior who quickly catches Schmidt’s attention and becomes a focal point of his day-to-day activities.

Jenko, on the other hand, finds himself struggling as the former high school kingpin now finds himself a social outcast, spending much of his time with the chemistry nerds trying to find a way to work the social structure to get to the bottom of the school’s drug trade.

Now what would be a simple assignment for two seasoned cops becomes completely unhinged for the to raw recruits who become more obsessed with social status than their mission and take extreme measures to ingratiate themselves with their new classmates. This all comes at a cost as their bond becomes strained due to Schmidt’s rapidly ascending social status and their continued inability to crack the case.

Now this is a premise that has been done countless times in numerous cop films. “21 Jump Street” has a bold and fresh formula that deftly mixes elements of the gross-out teen comedy with an action-adventure film. While the film drags a bit in the middle, there are some incredibly funny jokes throughout the film. The action in the film is solid and fits well with the story rather than trying to spice things up with random explosions.

I loved how the film, based on a story co-written by Jonah Hill, and produced by both Hill and Tatum, took a fresh approach to the subject matter but also respectfully made fun of the source material, banking on nostalgia while updating it for a younger audience.

I can easily say this was probably Jonah Hill’s best comedy to date as they were numerous laugh out loud moments in the film and he and Tatum make a fantastic duo, playing extremely well off one another. There are also several cameos in the film and strong supporting work from Ice Cube, who plays the extremely agitated captain of the inept cops placed under his command. The film sets up very well for a sequel and I understand that there’s already preparation underway should this one do well at the box office.

“21 Jump Street” is easily the funniest movie I’ve seen this year. I have not laughed this much, for all the right reasons, in quite a long time. Hip and fresh again, there’s plenty of bounce left in “21 Jump Street.”
3.5 stars out 5

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