Published on March 16th, 2012 | by dvdpinson0
21 Jump Street is a Fresh Surprise
The sharp and hilarious “21 Jump Street” is a self-aware reworking of an old television show that never devolves into the dull cynicism that similar projects have in the past. Imagine “The Brady Bunch Movie” without the irony or “Starsky and Hutch” without the stupid.
What you have left is a genuine comedy that acknowledges the ridiculousness of its source material and then moves on to establish something new. “21 Jump Street” is a fresh surprise and much better than should be allowed.
Schmidt (Skinny Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Charming Channing Tatum) are two rookies that recently squeaked out of the Police Academy. They now envision a life of a cop that will be as thrilling and dangerous as what they have grown up seeing on TV: Car chases that end in brilliant explosions and power-punching thugs in the throat during numerous drug busts. The reality is a little tamer and their first assignment has them patrolling the park on bikes, helmets and all.
After a botched arrest, the two delusional partners are assigned to a special undercover gig that has them posing as high school students to take down a dangerous drug ring. Whaaaa? Well it worked for Johnny Depp for five seasons back in the day who was 28 by the time the original “Jump Street” filmed its last episode.
Once the two are roaming the halls it becomes crystal that a lot has changed since the Schmidt and Jenko had their glory days. Now the big, burly Jenko is relegated to nerd status as “cool kids” embrace the smarter Schmidt almost immediately. Conflict. When Schmidt asks the cute and popular Molly (Brie Larson) to the prom and she says “Yes!!” Jenko realizes that they are in too deep. Schmidt is trying to relive the past but there are crooks to be stopped, busts to be busted and streets to be jumped. I don’t know what that last part means but I’m pretty sure its credible slang.
The directors behind “21 Jump Street,” Phil Lord and Chris Miller, are the minds that brought you the animated “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” and their first attempt at a live action feature is a door buster. They hit a perfect balance between the comedy and action elements, hitting you with a near constant reason to laugh. Most notable is one of the funniest and bizarre car chases in cinematic history. The screenplay by Michael Bacall (also co-wrote “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”) gives the film its own life and deals with the concept as well as humanly possible.
I think it should be safe to say that we (the ticket buying audience) are sick of the rehash/remake/redux/do-over, and it seems that the Lord, Miller and Bacall are as well. There is even a point when the brilliant Nick Offerman (brilliant because he is the man that brings Ron Swanson to life on “Parks and Recreations”) points out the entire premise is a regurgitated idea from the 80’s and the “powers that be” keep pulling trash from the past and try to pass it off as something new. Too true. The statement lets us in on the fact the filmmakers are on our side. This is the current state of Hollywood and if we have to remix EVERYTHING from our past, lets have some fun with it.
As for Hill and Tatum, they share a real chemistry. Tatum is entirely agile with the comedic timing and Hill does Hill which is always a great thing. Let’s chalk “21 Jump Street” up as the biggest surprise of the year.