It’s understandable that moviegoers might be disappointed about the prospect of yet another remake hitting the big screen -- it’s not like adaptations of old TV shows have the best track record, even when they’re meant to be satirical. But 21 Jump Street defies negative expectations by such a wide margin that co-directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord may have improved the reputation of the entire genre. Remake or no, this movie is hysterical.
The premise is the same as the TV show: Two young cops, Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum), are sent on an undercover mission to pose as teenagers and infiltrate the cliques of a local high school in order to bust juvenile criminals on their own turf. The difference between the ’80s television series and the big-screen version is that this one is hilarious. Jonah Hill, on his way to becoming a comic vet at the age of 28, is in top form onscreen, and probably behind it too, since he’s a co-writer and executive producer. And requisite hot guy Channing Tatum, heretofore cast as a beefy mimbo in mediocre romances and action fare, finds his true calling as a comedian. To say that Tatum totally commits to every silly, stupid thing about his character would be an understatement. He dives into the sheer ridiculousness of the script with a vital dose of what a great comedic actor needs -- a wanton disregard for looking dumb.
To try and further explain why or how 21 Jump Street is so funny would be largely impossible. It’s not a spoof like Starsky & Hutch or The Brady Bunch Movie, although it does provide a subtle vein of self-parody at the right moments. But mostly, it’s just a funny script, orchestrated by funny filmmakers, and carried out by funny actors. The picture is hilarious the way that Superbad was hilarious -- and it’s absolutely as hilarious as Superbad. If such a bold statement evokes in you an incredulous response, just go see the movie to prove me wrong. Because you should see it anyway -- it’s really that good.
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