21 Jump Street: A Review

I don’t remember much of the 21 Jump Street television series which featured Johnny Depp in the late 80s so I had no basis in which to compare the 2012 update. As I understand, there were plenty of nods to the original series in the  script, some that I completely missed but it was absolutely okay. I thought that the entire remake was hilarious.

In the 2012 version, Channing Tatum plays Jenko, a popular jock who went to school with the nerdy Slim Shady wannabe Schmidt (Jonah Hill). They did not get along well during their teenage years, mostly because they belonged in different cliques. Years later, they meet at the police academy where they discover that they could help each other get through training because they had different strengths (Jenko was good at the physical stuff and Schmidt was better at the brainy bits). They manage to graduate from the academy but when they are finally deployed to service, they discover that the job is pretty underwhelming. They vow to make a major arrest to get better assignments but when they screw up the arrest of a biker gang engaged in drugs, they are exiled to do undercover work as high school students at 21 Jump Street where they need to bust an operation of a new synthetic drug before it leaks out into the market. When they return to high school, however, they find that things have changed since they last went and both try to navigate their way cluelessly in the new order.

21 Jump Street was a great remake because it dealt with a fresh story and did not use the original characters in the series. In doing so, comparisons were kept to a minimum and the movie was rightfully judged as a buddy comedy that pays homage to the original show. I, for one, thought that the movie was awesome from start to finish. Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill had excellent rapport and never missed a step in their comedic timing. Jonah Hill reportedly had to lose weight because of the physicality of his role in this film but he never lost his ability to tell a good joke, and the weight loss did not translate to lost humor. Good thing too, because he is also partly credited for the screenplay.

The script was awesome and never missed a chance to make fun of classic teen stereotypes, mixing the styles of the teens of the old jump street with the humor of the new. I especially liked the repeated statement (and restatement) of the obvious and the perfect scoring. Hilarious. Casting Ice Cube as Captain Dickson was also awesome. He is so much better in comedy than in action like XXX 2.

I liked Dave Franco in this movie too. He plays eco-warrior/drug mule Eric Molson. He’s James Franco’s baby bro, in case you were wondering and he is just as adorable as the eccentic elder Franco.

What I liked best about this movie was that everything was done in good fun. Even the original cast members who dropped in to do cameos were very game. I think everybody, from the director, to the scriptwriters, to the musical scorers, to the cast — everybody — was committed to making the over the top comedy work, and it did, at the end of the day. And making a good film out of a classic is the perfect tribute to a show that contributed to a huge chunk of pop culture (yes, I’m hinting that Total Recall sucks).

All in all, I had a lot of fun taking in this movie. Kudos to directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller (who also happen to be exceutive producers of How I Met Your Mother) for making this happen. Comedy gold, this one.