21 Jump Street: Film Review

21 Jump Street (2012)

Getting high on the new Jump Street.

LET’S MAKE IT CLEAR: the 21 Jump Street we all knew and loved? It’s not here, if you’re looking for it in the 2012 remake of the TV series directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller. Co-star (also co-writer) Jonah Hill of Superbad and Moneyball fame spread the disclaimer early on: he wasn’t aiming to bring back the old Jump Street to the 21st century. What he wanted to do, with fellow scribe Michael Bacall, was to make a buddy cop movie about the woes of returning to high school. As if to add salt to an already open wound, there was a joke somewhere in the movie about his character, Schmidt, and his tool of a partner, Jenko (Channing Tatum), being sent to “37 Jump Street. Now that doesn’t sound quite right, does it?”

But the audience laughed anyway. They had laughed earlier when Schmidt and Jenko arrested a pot dealer in a public park and simulated anal penetration and then proceeded to forget their Miranda rights. They laughed again when Jenko called someone gay on their first day of back-to-school assignment and blamed TV phenomenon Glee as the reason for the inexplicable youth culture of today. They laughed some more when Schmidt, in a Peter Pan costume, fight it out with Jenko in front of the whole school. In fact, the laughter didn’t stop for the entire 100-plus minutes of this irreverent, crude, dirty and incredibly hilarious feat of cinema.

Sometimes the key to a successful remake is not to evoke the nostalgic memories of the past – sometimes it’s a matter of bringing something new to the table while paying homage to the spirit of the original. This is what 21 Jump Street, The Remake, tried to do… and succeeded. High school culture in the ’80s is different from the present-day, as well as filmmaking trends and audience perceptions.

Were Hill and Bacall tried to stick to loyally the old school version of 21 Jump Street, they’d fail (look at Footloose – remember that remake last year? No? Case in point.) Lord, Miller, Hill and Bacall didn’t have Johnny Depp and Peter DeLuise – how do you find carbon copies of these actors whose faces have now been forever imprinted on the iconic roles’ images. So by going another way – and choosing a flawless Hill and a surprisingly funny Tatum – they avoided the disappointment and provided the entertaiment.

Fans of the Stephen J. Cannell show, though, can enjoy the cameos of the old cast and a few similarities here and there. Unlike the A-Team remake, 21 Jump Street properly paid their tributes to their predecessors and, at one instance, in a grand manner that may choke you up with tears. It’s not a stylish, quality arthouse movie, of course, and it’s not a gritty, intense cop thriller. But this action comedy is equally funny and ball-busting at a stratospheric level. Literally.

Sometimes incoherent and politically incorrect, the new 21 Jump Street is nonetheless a film worth watching. Leave your nostalgia at home and bring your friends and a groin cup to prepare for the hilarity.

According to Jonah Hill, he was “the Drew Barrymore of this movie”. (But don’t worry, this movie is nowhere near Never Been Kissed‘s sappy, sweet-ending plot.)

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