SAME ADDRESS, BRILLIANT RENOVATION
Nope, never did! Just wanted to state up front that I have not seen one minute of the original eighties series, 21 JUMP STREET, which set Johnny Depp on the road to stardom. But my husband has and he was bouncing excitedly down the theatre corridor to the screening of the new 21 JUMP STREET Film.
Apparently it was a very cool series. Well it had Johnny Depp, so that I get. However, a lot of these old hit series do not translate well into modern film. They tend to become corny, cash grabs, that fade quickly onto DVD. I can remember a very bad experience with MOD SQUAD (one of my faves of the seventies) where , half way through the screening, I couldn’t stop my feet from removing me from the cinema. Yes, it was that bad.
So the question you are going to ask me is: Does it live up to the series?
The answer, drum roll please, or should I say machine gunfire in the air, is…
Yes. It (insert swear word starting with F here)ing does live up. I add the swear word because it deserves its MA15+ rating in Australia and R in the States. The profanity and sex jokes run from the opening scene until the last car chase. But these guys make swearing funny—very, cover your mouth oh that is terrible, funny.
21 JUMP STREET, pairs Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) as enemies in high school who find themselves graduating as friends from Police Academy. Schmidt is the smart nerd and Jenko the good-looking muscled and not so bright other half of the team. After fumbling a park arrest on the bicycle beat, they are transferred into the secret Jump Street unit, run by the tough Captain Dickson (Ice Cube), whose charming turn of phrase constantly includes four letter words, Mother, and the slang for the male appendage.
From there they are sent undercover to a high school—youthful appearances and back packs in tow—where they must track down the dealers and suppliers of a new designer drug. Jenko thinks he has the undercover persona worked out, having, only a few years before, been top dog at school. They soon discover that everything is not what they expected and Schmidt can’t resist rewriting his bad High School nerd memories even at the expense of the case and his friendship with Jenko.
The film is not a remake of 21JUMP STREET but, according to producer, Neal Moritz and executive producer Tania Landau, more an update of the premise. They admit that it wasn’t until Jonah Hill became involved that the project really came into focus.
“It’s a great concept,” Landau says. “Two young-looking cops go undercover at a high school, and against all odds, bust a drug ring. We make a lot of action movies, so that was how we saw the direction for this project, too. But things changed when we had lunch with Jonah and he suggested doing it as an R-rated action comedy. Suddenly it all fell into place.”
Jonah Hill, who also executive produced and wrote the story, along with screenwriter Michael Bacall, says that it started with a simple question: "I asked myself what would it be like to relive the most important time period of your youth—high school. You think you have all the answers that you didn't have then, but then you get back there and realize those answers are all wrong. You then immediately revert back to the insecurities and problems you had when you were seventeen."
Bacall explains, “At first, nothing goes as planned for the characters. These guys treat it like wish fulfillment—‘Oh, if I only knew then what I know now’. But all of the information that they have no longer applies. Jenko—who was always the cool kid back then—falls in with the nerds, and Schmidt—the nerdier of the two—falls in with the cool crowd. It’s a total role reversal.”
It’s this role reversal concept that elevates 21 JUMP STREET to more than another tired action comedy cashing in on an iconic series. Put a slick script together with two actors, who are clearly having the most fun you can have whilst being paid millions, and you have one very cool action comedy.
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum enjoy perfect chemistry together and the film never forgets it has one job, to make us laugh and then make us laugh some more. If you want to see the original series buy the DVD. If you want to see what could be one of the best comedies of 2012, see 21 JUMP STREET. It is (beeping) awesome.