Last week, I wrote about Hollywood’s attempt to remake a science fiction book, Princess of Mars, into a family movie, John Carter. This week, I got to watch Hollywood turn a cop drama TV show, 21 Jump Street, into a raunchy comedy duo film, 21 Jump Street. This time, things take a turn for the hilarious and satisfying.
The movie 21 Jump Street is a remake of the [amazon_link id="B003K2G0TA" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]late ‘80s show of the same name[/amazon_link]. Personally, I was two years old when the TV show was cancelled so I had to look it up. Somewhere along the way, things changed from a serious drama starring Johnny Depp to a more slapstick affair starring Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. This shift in tone is one of many attempts to seemingly appeal to both older and younger audiences.
The movie features Hill and Tatum as incompetent police officers who get transferred into a recently rebooted undercover program downtown on 21 Jump Street. Their mission is to infiltrate a high school and discover the supplier of a new drug being sold out of that school. Needless to say, hilarity ensues. The film is essentially a tale of two grown men getting to relive their high school years, but things are much different in today’s high school scene.
Channing Tatum plays the role of the strong, dumb guy who was captain of the football team in high school and beat up kids for being different and enjoying Star Trek. Jonah Hill plays the self-conscious, smart guy who got beat up by the Channing Tatum’s in high school. One of the more amusing running jokes in the film addresses how much the high school sociology has changed since my parents graduated. Sure, we still have the Goths, the jocks, and the nerds but we also have the hipsters and the Japanophiles and all those other groups that have emerged since my parents’ generation finished high school.
I think the thing I like most about this movie, besides the fact that it is hilarious, is that it tries to appeal to both a younger and older audience and succeeds. Most of the comedy is either raunchy slapstick or clever parodies of classic movie clichés. It is a comedy duo movie that makes fun of comedy duo movies.
Tatum and Hill work excellently together, and the funniest moments of the film occur when they play off of each others’ strengths. The movie is almost entirely the Hill and Tatum show, but some of the side characters work in funny gags when necessary. Ice Cube generates big laughs every time he appears onscreen, for example. There is also one especially clever joke that connects this film to the original show. You will know it when you see it.
The most important thing is that 21 Jump Street is very funny. The plot and characters are stereotypes, and the film is aware of that and even makes jokes about it. Whether you enjoy crass humor as in American Pie or some witty observations about Hollywood and modern culture, there is plenty to like about this movie.
JANE’S TAKE: I was, uh, older than two when the original TV series ran, but I’ve yet to watch it. Guess I’d better get on that. But I have to say, even though 21 Jump Street the Movie is cruder than my usual family film fare, parts of it were indeed very funny and even poignant. I had the same reaction to Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. It’s so stupid that you just have to laugh.
Directed by Phil Lord, 21 Jump Street is rated R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, drug material, teen drinking and some violence.