In the television series 21 Jump Street, baby-faced police officers are grouped in a special task force to go undercover and infiltrate crime within schools. The show ran from 1987 to 1991 and kick-started the careers of Johnny Depp and Holly Robinson-Peete, who appeared in all 98 episodes of the show’s run. The gritty drama took audiences into the kind of crime that kids in those days faced every day.
In 21 Jump Street the film remake of the TV series, two idiot cops, Schmidt and Jenko (played by Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum respectively), go undercover pretending to be teenagers to crack a small-time drug ring. Their mission is to infiltrate the Sagan High School teen-scene and find out who’s behind the drug slinging. In order to be believable, Schmidt and Jenko impersonate students at the high school.
Screenwriter Michael Bacall, who created the story line with Hill, doesn’t stay true to the TV series. My guess is he’s poking fun at the ridiculousness of the story’s concept. Maybe he and Hill are re-imagining 21 Jump Street as a comedy for viewing pleasure. Whatever the case, fans of the series looking for riveting TV drama will be sorely disappointed with its film doppelganger.
The opposite of the Footloose reboot, 21 Jump Street is an underwhelming remake. Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller tag team to bring some mediocre visuals to a film that relies on the storyline’s concepts, the actors’ funniness and making things go boom.
21 Jump Street the movie is just a slapstick, stupid comedy chock full of cheap laughs at the expense of clueless yet clued-in teenagers.
Tatum and Hill are a cute match for an odd couple. I’m not sure whether these two should be dating or just hanging out, but they play well off of each other.
The actor who steals the film is Ice Cube as Captain Dickson. Cube, who must have been a fan of the television series, makes a good captain: mean on the outside and annoyed on the inside. He’s perfect for Schmidt and Jenko, a pair of hapless cops who are a little too good at pretending to be idiot civilians. Captain Dickson keeps them in line.
Other actors of note are Dave Franco (little brother of former Oscar host James Franco) as Eric, the green activist/drug dealer; DeRay Davis as Domingo, a tough guy on a motorcycle; Robinson-Peete in a cameo reprising her on-screen role as Officer Judy Hoffs; and Depp reprising his role as Officer Tom Hanson.
Kudos to Bacall for incorporating today’s times into a story that’s more than two decades old — for example the green drug dealer plot point. Bacall also nicely sets up the film for a sequel — paying homage to the reason the TV show was reworked into a film: to cash in.
The original 21 Jump Street still lives on via the Internet. Unfortunately, it appears outdated with the 1980s and ’90s clothes, crazy hair and wooden acting that make one wonder why this film version was created. 21 Jump Street, the movie, is good for a few good belly laughs. Just don’t look for anything substantial, like a non-corny plot.
Photo: by Scott Garfield/Columbia TriStar Marketing Group, Inc.