[pullquote cite=”” type=”left, right”][amazon text=Amazon&template=carousel&chan=That Film Guy&asin=B00JWSVLJK][/pullquote] 21 Jump Street was an iconic American police procedural show in the late 1980s and early 1990s that is best known for launching the career of main star Johnny Depp. In an age where any and all TV shows and films are considered ripe for reinvention, parody and sequels, 21 Jump Street gets a revamp with Jonah Hill as co-writer and star. Bringing the action into the modern day, it takes the basic premise of the show, adult police officers posing as high school kids, and turns it into a series of jokes and parodies in the same way that the Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller vehicle Starsky and Hutch.
Morton Schmidt (Hill) was a high-school nerd, while Greg Jenko (Channing Tatum) was a cocky jock. After graduation the two men apply to join the police and become best friends when not under the social pressure of high school. After a calamitous first arrest, the two are sent to 21 Jump Street to join a special police program that will see them going undercover at a high school to infiltrate and bring down a drugs ring. Realising that times have changed Schmidt finds himself as the popular kid, while Jenko begins to learn what life is like for an outsider. Slowly their friendship begins to breakdown and with Prom just around the corner their opportunity to bust the ring becomes smaller and smaller.
21 Jump Street is something of an anomoly, being that it’s a Hollywood comedy, starring one comedian and one heart-throb actor, that rehashes overused, even cliched ideas and yet due to a inability to make excuses for itself manages to be original. Placing itself firmly in the Anchorman style of improvised comedy and with a non-conformist view of high school attitudes and cliques, it breathes fresh life into the stale teen high school comedy genre. Gone entirely are the jocks, with the popular kids now presented as tolerant, eco-friendly go-getters, although it doesn’t quite go as far as to show nerds as anything other than social misfits. It seems that some stereotypes will never change.
The script, co-written by Hill is as loose and insane as much of the individual scenes and jokes. They speed through the back story in no time and allow the stars to get to the meat of the action quickly, but then will slow as they drag the audience on a strange tangent. Of the stars, Hill is as humorous as expected, but the real surprise is Tatum, who shows off excellent comic timing and goes as far as to steal the show from his more experienced partner. In fact, toward the final act, Hill has become so self-important and pompous that some of the comedy is lost. Combine this with overlong car chase scenes and the generic action moments and 21 Jump Street becomes a film of two halves. It is lucky then the first half is so monumentally funny that you can forgive it the latter slow decline.
With surprising, but excellent casting throughout, a ridiculous concept smothered in nostalgia and even some sentiment it’s amazing that 21 Jump Street works at all. However, scenes such as the main duo on drugs and their first arrest are so gut-bustingly funny that everything falls into place as they have the audiences attention and won’t let go.