Last night I watched the pilot episode of the 1980s TV series 21 Jump Street because I had never seen it before and I wanted to have some knowledge of that world before seeing the feature film today.
Even though the TV show of 21 Jump Street is a drama, I haven’t laughed that hard in awhile. I’m sure for the time, it was a solid show. However, 25+ years later, the acting can be considered over-acting, the camera shots and editing choices were ridiculous and the ADR was horrendous.
That being said, I still totally enjoyed the show. It’s got a good premise – young looking cop gets reassigned to Jump Street, a unit where cops go undercover as high school kids to stop crimes taking place among youth. A super young Johnny Depp (playing Tom Hanson) gets such an assignment and he helps take down some bad guys. It’s not the best show of all time, but it was entertaining.
Today I saw the new movie version of 21 Jump Street with my mom. It’s got the same basic premise – young cops going undercover in high school, but the movie has a more buddy-comedy aspect to it than the show.
The movie stars Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. At first, this seemed like a highly unlikely pairing, but that’s actually what made it work so well. Tatum’s character was supposed to go back to high school and take fluff classes (i.e. drama) while Hill was supposed to take AP-Chem and infiltrate the smart kids. A mix-up in the principal’s office leads Hill to auditioning for Peter Pan and Tatum in AP-Chem (or, as he calls it, app-chem) talking about KNO3 and covalent bonds. While the movie still very much focused on stopping a crime at the high school (catching the dealers and supplier of a drug), one of its larger plots revolved around the friendship and working relationship of Tatum and Hill’s characters. There was a lot of heart to this film… sort of reminded me of some Apatow movies like Pineapple Express or Superbad where there are two male leads who are best friends, but they must overcome some conflict in order to get their relationship back on track so that they can ultimately come out on top.
The heart and friendship aspect of the story was surrounded by a lot (and I mean a LOT) of schtick, witty dialogue, physical comedy, and beyond excellent chemistry among the cast. While I haven’t been the biggest fan of Tatum in year’s past, I will admit that I have grown to like him and can appreciate him for his comedic chops, excellent timing, and commitment to a role. I’m really looking forward to seeing Magic Mike and not (just) because he plays a stripper… but because he is very capable of delivering a well thought out character arc. I have noticed an improvement in his craft over the past few years and think that he is a lot better actor than I and others have given him credit for earlier in his career. This kind of growth in a performer is inspiring to watch and I am willing to give him more of a chance in his films to come and approach his work with a more open mind.
I had high expectations for Hill and did not walk away disappointed. He’s one of my favorite comedic performers in my age bracket and I am always eager to see what he brings to the table. Even though they showed the Nick Offerman/Jonah Hill/Channing Tatum office scene regarding the aftermath of a botched arrest in commercials and trailers, I still laughed out loud upon Hill’s deliver of the line “You *do* have the right to be an attorney, if you want to” after Tatum misquotes the Miranda Rights. (btw – this whole scene was SOLID. It was the PERFECT way to establish this film within the industry’s canon of remakes and re-vamps. Four for you, script. FOUR FOR YOU.)
Hill has proven, though, that he is capable of delivering heartfelt dramatic performances/moments when he needs to (see also Moneyball and Superbad). It’s his ability to bring you to the highest of highs and then right back down to a more somber reality that just shows what a smart and talented performer he is. I am a big, big fan of his work. Have been since I ❤ Huckabees 🙂
I'm so glad I watched some of the show before I saw the movie b/c I would have missed out on the importance of some of the characters/cameos/story lines/references. If you haven't seen the show but want to see the movie, I would suggest watching at least one episode to get your feet wet before diving into the film.
The film was HILARIOUS. Even my mom was doubled over with laughter at the movie theater… so you know it's super funny because she won't laugh at just anything. In fact, she'll usually roll her eyes if my dad and/or I are laughing at something. So yeah… if you want to laugh your ass off, go see 21 Jump Street
Have a good one