Saturday, March 31, 2012

21 Jump Street (2012)

Co-directed by: Phil Lord, Chris Miller
Starring: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Brie Larson, Dave Franco, Ice Cube.

A brief prologue of this film shows Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) in their awkward high school years: Schmidt was the dork who couldn't get the girl, and Jenko was the ever-popular jock. Fast forward to the present time and Schmidt and Jenko find themselves in the Metro City Police Department Academy. The pair quickly become best friends, and help each other graduate the academy. After a brief (and unsuccessful) stint working bicycle patrol, the two cops get assigned to a re-vamped undercover unit from the 1980s, "Jump Street." Schmidt and Jenko pose as teenagers to infiltrate a drug ring at a local high school. The stereo-typical captain in charge of the unit, Dickson (Ice Cube) is more than a little skeptical as to whether or not his new officers can actually get the job done. Schmidt and Jenko find that high-school life has changed dramatically in the seven years since they were there. What was cool then is not cool now, and vise/versa.  The once nerdy Schmidt is now seen as cool, and the athletic jock types like Jenko are ostracized by their peers as uncool. The narrative of the film has lots of laughs and action tied into a plot line of self discovery on the parts of both Schmidt and Jenko.

Based on the 1980s television show, 21 Jump Street could have been just another attempt by Hollywood to re-cycle an old idea and trying to make it new. Fortunately, the producers of the film were well aware of that trend, making note of it early in the dialogue of the film. Other than the name itself, and a few cameos by cast members of the original series, this film does an excellent job of not looking like the original series.   Both Hill and Tatum have an "Odd Couple" like chemistry in this film. Both actors look way too old to be playing high school kids, and instead of ignoring this fact, the film uses it to its advantage creating some hilarious lines of dialogue.

Being a product of the 80s, anytime I hear that Hollywood is going to re-make an 80s television show into a movie, my interest is always piqued. Nine times out of ten, the end result of the film is a let down; however, this is not the case in 21 Jump Street. The reason why this film succeeds is because it is not a "re-make." This film takes the title of an 80s show and puts a new spin on it.  Screen writers Michael Bacall and Jonah Hill gear the narrative of the film to today's audience, but also make sure not to alienate fans of the original series, which makes the film easy for all audiences to relate to it. It should also be noted that in case you have lived in a cave for the last few decades, or were born after the show aired, then you are probably well aware of the fact that the original series launched the careers of many stars, namely Johnny Depp. I'm not going to give anything away, but Johnny is given his proper and much due respect in this film.

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