Review in a Hurry: A big-screen version of the ’90s TV show ditches the teen angst, adds laughs and keeps just the right amount of Depp! Even better, Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are an inspired duo.
Hill, a longtime fan of the series, cowrote the story which keeps the premise: young cops posing as high school students to nab baddies. But that’s really just a jumping off point for some great observations on how youth changes from generation to generation. Who knew kids these days wear their backpacks on both shoulders?
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The Bigger Picture: After a short stint as rookie cops delivers zero car chases and too many bicycle routes, Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) head back to high school undercover to capture a drug supplier. But when Jenko forgets his new undercover name, their principal hands them the wrong class schedules. So jock Jenko ends up in AP Chemistry while geek Schmidt does Drama 101. The clever hook is that in the seven years since they attended high school, the ways of being popular have changed. Now a loser like Hill can be cool and stud like Tatum can be an outcast.
The rules of who’s hot and who’s not will never change that much but just go with it.
The teens who now rule get good grades and care about the environment. In Jenko’s time, all it took was a complete absence in caring about anything (and good looks) to be pinup-worthy.
Tatum has never been better. He’s long been just a hunky heartthrob (The Vow), but as Jenko, he displays a flair for playing dumb. Or rather, playing a dude who can be smart but never had any reason to be; Jenko’s the kind of rookie who only knows the Miranda Rights up until most cop shows cut to commercial.
Hill can do the nerd thing easily, so no surprise there. But seeing his Schmidt become a douchebag is an interesting turn.
All along the way, the duo bicker, get mean and make up. And it’s pretty funny.
Although this whole endeavor really rides on the pairing of Hill and Tatum, there’s strong supporting work throughout. James Franco‘s younger brother Dave might be a tad too, well, Franco-like, but he has his own weird (but not stoned) charisma as an eco-friendly drug dealer. Ice Cube has fun playing up the stereotypical angry police chief as Jump Street’s top brass.
Oh, and that long rumored—and worst kept secret—cameo by Johnny Depp is a knockout. Depp relishes the moment to reprise the role that got him posted in high school lockers everywhere.
Directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs) have a knack for staging mayhem. A house party that gets out of control actually feels like a bash high schoolers still pull off. Even today, drunk teens can still be counted on to act really stupid. Somethings never change.
The 180—a Second Opinion: 21 Jump Street is pretty hilarious, but the action is sub par. We know it’s mostly a comedy, but aside from an early chase on bikes, most of the pursuits are neither hot nor all that engaging.
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