21 JUMP STREET
***1/2 (out of 5)
March 16, 2012
Jonah Hill as SCHMIDT
Channing Tatum as JENKO
Brie Larson as MOLLY TRACEY
Dave Franco as ERIC MOLSON
Rob Riggle as MR. WALTERS
DeRay Davis as DOMINGO
Ice Cube as CAPTAIN DICKSON
Nick Offerman as DEPUTY CHIEF HARDY
Directed by: Phil Lord and Chris Miller
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
I am an unapologetic, unabashed and totally gnarly child of the 80s. Yet for some strange reason, I never watched “21 Jump Street” when it was originally aired on the Fox network. I was keenly aware of the series, and even I knew that Johnny Depp was an emerging star, but for some strange reason, it wasn’t on my weekly viewing list.
So while I rolled my eyes at the thought of a big screen comedy adaptation of the show, it wasn’t treading on sacred ground. And right before I saw this new movie, I made the point to get my hands on a DVD of the first season and watch the first half-dozen episodes.
This new theatrical version is definitely funny, though the producers could have just ran the pilot for the series in theaters, and it would have been equally as funny. What worked and looked cool in 1987 plays corny and silly now.
While diverting a bit from the original series, “21 Jump Street” still has plenty of jokes for people who watched the show. But it’s as much for a modern audience who didn’t even know it existed before.
The first thing that “21 Jump Street” does right is that it doesn’t just remake the show. It also doesn’t spend its time poking fun at the show. Rather, it acknowledges the continuity of the series and simply presents itself as a revival, both as an entertainment concept and also as a in-context reboot of the retired police program. In fact, the scene that explains this includes Nick Offerton (in his only seen, unfortunately) winking and nodding at the audience, fully acknowledging that the remake of an old TV series amounts to nothing more than a cheap gimmick.
The story follows former high school nerd Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and former high school jock Jenko (Channing Tatum), who become friends in the police academy. After they graduate and blow a potential drug bust as bicycle cops, they’re sent down to the Jump Street Program, which plants youthful-looking (or at least semi-youthful-looking) police officers in area high school where they can bust criminals. Schmidt and Jenko mess things up by swapping identities (with Schmidt now the jock and Jenko now the nerd), but they still try to take down the supplier of a new and deadly synthetic drug.
“21 Jump Street” tries to be both a comedy and an action film, but it really only succeeds as a comedy. It’s extremely funny, with Hill and Tatum displaying a disturbing amount of chemistry. They both handle the often raunchy humor well and play a mix of smooth and sympathetic.
In fact, the only time the movie breaks down is in some of the action sequences, that often seem forced and play as boring. When there’s jokes to be played and laughter to be had, “21 Jump Street” makes the grade. Unfortunately, it’s an uneven run through the high school halls.
Additionally, there’s the obligatory high school party scene which in any other context would be quite funny. However, with the baggage of “Project X” behind the film (along with several news stories breaking this week of teens causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in vandalism – and at least one death – from trying to emulate the so-called epic party in that movie), this scene plays out abrasive and just plain sad.
Still, the bulk of “21 Jump Street” is a win with some great line deliveries and hysterical moments. It isn’t the greatest buddy cop film around, but it’s surprisingly fresh for what it is. Considering the trailer looked terrible, this movie was a pleasant surprise.