This movie should not work. 80’s remakes of TV shows almost never do: The Dukes of Hazard? Nope. Starsky & Hutch? Had some moments (mainly with Will Ferrell). The A Team? Meh. Miami Vice? Well, yes. But only because it really had nothing to with the TV series and I would full on mouth kiss any of Michael Mann’s films.
BUT 21 Jump Street works.
I loved watching the TV show 21 Jump Street as a kid but most people I know have never watched or even heard of it before. (It wasn’t as globally super syndicated as The A Team or Dukes). It doesn’t matter that you didn’t watch or see the TV series (though satisfyingly ALL the original cast pop up in some form or another along the way).
The fact that not many remember the TV series is a good thing. There’s no expectations. Besides, the only thing carried from the TV show into the movie is the loose plot: “youthful” looking cops go undercover in high school. Or as ICE Cube as the over the top, stereotypical but brilliant, angry captain puts it: “Teenage the fuck up!”
We meet Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) in their painful high school days. Schmidt is the geeky “not-so-slim-shady’ who chokes on asking his dream girl to prom meanwhile his sworn enemy, super jock, meat head bully Jenko can’t pull the grades to get to prom.
Cut to 7 years later and the two pair up and become best friends to get themselves through police academy. They finally graduate – into under par cops. So they’re sent to the undercover Jump Street high school program. Back in high school – EVERYTHING has changed. Suddenly the geeks who care about the environment and read comic books are the cool kids and bully jocks have no place on the new social landscape. But at least they get a second chance.
Rarely is a comedy funny all the way through. But this manages it. Though not an Apatow Film, co-writer Jonah Hill turns this into an Apatow cocktail: a tasty mix of dick jokes AND sharp comedy as well as social commentary with heart. It’s Hill, Tatum and their bromance that makes the movie. Hill is on usual point with his awkward sincerity routine which never seems to get old. And Tatum is surprisingly great. I’ve realized I don’t like ‘GI Joe’, alpha dog, kick ass Tatum or super sappy, puppy dog ‘The Vow’ Tatum. I like my Tatum funny and dumb. No doubt in addition the definite Jump Street sequel that will come around, Tatum will now travel down the comedy road with gusto.
The genius of the movie is that it mocks itself. So when you’re not laughing at it, you’re laughing with it. That makes for a lot of laughs. Watch this if you like: Superbad, Hot Fuzz, Lethal Weapon, and Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist.