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‘21 Jump Street’ – re-done and well-done

March 1st, 2012

In recent years, Hollywood has become a barren wasteland absolutely void of creative ideas. Trying to find ideas for movies, they ruffle through books, old TV shows, video games and even board games. If they can’t after that, they remake movies that have already been made. They recycle the same old crap over and over again, and think the audience is stupid enough not to notice.

The creators of the new movie adaptation of the ‘80s Johnny Depp TV show “21 Jump Street” seem to think the same thing. It’s actually a line in the movie, except it’s spoken by a police chief, and he’s talking about an old undercover program. It’s this self-awareness that elevates “21 Jump Street” above its peers. It’s not so much an adaptation as much as a humorous homage or spoof. And it’s the funniest raunchy comedy to come out in a long time.

The film stars Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, as Schmidt and Jenko, two under-qualified police officers who went to the same high school. Jenko was a jock bully, and Schmidt was a huge nerd (and a Slim Shady fan).

When they are training to become cops, they form a friendship, Schmidt teaching Jenko how to pass exams, and Jenko helping Schmidt to pass physical training.

After an embarrassing arrest mishap where Jenko realizes he doesn’t know the Miranda rights, the two enter a program that places them undercover in a high school, searching for the dealer of a dangerous new drug.

It also stars Ice Cube as their boss, and Dave Franco as a fellow student.

One of the most surprising aspects of “21 Jump Street” is the terrific chemistry between Hill and Tatum. The two really are an odd couple; comedy vet Hill as the chubby (yet not so much anymore) and smart goofball, and Tatum as the good-looking, yet incredibly stupid partner. Tatum is new to the raunchy comedy genre, and he actually does a tremendous job. He’s way funnier than one would expect him to be.

There’s an especially funny scene where, in order to get deeper undercover, the two have to take the drug that is making rounds in the school. It’s a situation that audiences of these types of comedies are familiar to, but the Hill and Tatum are just so hilarious together that it doesn’t matter.

Another funny aspect of the movie is how it plays with the idea of returning to high school years after you’ve left to find that what was cool isn’t cool anymore.

When trying to give tips to Schmidt, Jenko tells him that when carrying his book bag, the cool way is to “one strap it.” After seeing that the other students are using both straps, both panic.

He also tells him that to be cool, you just have to not give a crap. Unfortunately, now all the “cool kids” care about the environment and getting good grades.

When labeling the social groups, after naming the cool kids, nerds and jocks, they walk past a group of hipsters and Jenko says, “I don’t know what the hell those are.” It’s a humorous way of comparing how different the high school experiences now compared to when the show first aired.

Another surprising aspect of the film is how well the action scenes are choreographed and shot. The chase scenes are exciting and thrilling, and there’s a gut-busting scene with exploding chickens.

“21 Jump Street” is the biggest surprise of the year so far. It’s smart, funny, and unrelenting. Plus, there’s a surprise at the end that will please even the most hardened Hollywood cynic. If your a fan of gross-out, raunchy high school comedies like “Superbad” and “American Pie,” it doesn’t get much better than this.