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'21 Jump Street' jumps from TV drama to hilarious comedy


When I first heard a remake for ‘21 Jump Street’ was being made, I kind of scratched my head and asked myself why another television show from the 1980’s has to be adapted to the big screen? 21 Jump Street photo: Screenrant.com

Think about it. If you make something too similar to the original version, chances are it will never be superior to the original. Furthermore, you might as well just watch the original series on late night television or on some DVDs in your spare time. If you do something too different, you deviate from what made the original show what it was.

At the same time however, you can make something so ‘outside the box’ where you can give the project a new identity. Such is the case with the movie incarnation of ‘21 Jump Street.’ It is indeed outside the box, and it might be the funniest movie of 2012.

In the film, Morton Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Greg Jenko (Channing Tatum) are former high school  classmates who are reunited when they join the police academy five years later. Schmidt and Jenko were not exactly the best of pals back in the day, but develop a bond when they help one another get through the academy and eventually graduation.  

After a failed drug bust in which the duo fails to read the perpetrator his rights, they are assigned to a new division on 21 Jump Street. When they arrive, they meet Captain Dickson (Ice Cube), a loud, foul-mouthed, straight shooter who puts Schmidt and Jenko on assignment as undercover high school students at a school where a new synthetic drug is being dealt. It has already killed one of the students, and they have to infiltrate the drug ring without having their cover blown.

When the two “brothers” confuse their identities when speaking with the principal, the athletic Jenko is sent to chemistry class, while the studious Schmidt is sent to drama class and the track team. It’s a twist of irony for the two, as their roles are direct opposites of who they were in high school. While in their undercover roles, Schmidt meets Eric (Dave Franco), the school’s drug dealer who is looking for help in increasing his profits. Meanwhile, Jenko becomes friends with some ‘nerds’ in his chemistry class, who end up playing an important role in helping Schmidt and Jenko during their assignment.

During this time, Schmidt also meets Molly (Brie Larson), the type of girl he always wanted in high school but never was able to get, and becomes a little too involved with his role for Jenko’s liking. After a fight during a school play that gets them expelled, the two put their differences aside, and with the help of some new friends, set out to finish what they started.

If you saw the previews for ‘21 Jump Street’ and were laughing out loud, there is no doubt that you will do the same if you go see the movie. It's basically a laugh fest from start to finish, with a few brief but serious moments mixed in for good measure. And truth be told, that is probably why it will be successful. Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller made a film that might carry the same title as the television series, but virtually has no correlation whatsoever (with the exception of several cameos from the original cast) with the 1987-1991 show on Fox, which starred a young Johnny Depp. In saying that, the movie has an edge and at times some pretty gross moments. However, you’ll find yourself laughing more at the audacity to include these elements into the film than be taken aback by the occasional lewd humor.

The Acadamy Award nominated Hill (Moneyball) is his usual consistent self. In addition to delivering a solid performance as the bumbling Schmidt, Hill also co-wrote the movie with Michael Bacall. While laughs from Hill are expected, the actor who clearly stole the show is (believe it or not) Tatum, who isn’t exactly the first name that comes to mind when you think of ‘gut-busting comedy.’  Usually cast as a lead male in dramas (The Vow, Step Up) or action films (G.I. Joe), Tatum’s portrayal as the dim-witted but likeable Jenko is what will most likely have people talking after the film, which has strong performances from the entire supporting cast. The pairing of Tatum and Hill is strong and similar to the on-screen chemistry of Hill and Michael Cera  in ‘Superbad.’ In fact, Sony is already working on bringing Hill and Tatum back for a sequel.

Though not a morality tale by any means, ‘21 Jump Street’ reminds you that in life, you sometimes get second chances, relationships can come full circle, and how people who you never thought would be in your corner or ever see again can suddenly become your biggest ally. All in the span of an hour and fifty minutes.

Definitely see this one.

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com 

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Photo: Screenrant.com