Two cops who pedal bicycles after a tough-looking biker gang of 1 percenters in the city park. Cops who don’t know how to recite the Miranda Rights word-for-word upon making their first arrest. Their only redeeming quality is that they look young, like they just got out of school (or in Channing Tatum’s character’s case, he looks like he might have flunked out a few years).
“21 Jump Street” is ridiculous, but that is part of the appeal. When reviving a classic late ’80s, early ’90s television series like “21 Jump Street” and adapting it to the silver screen in the twenty-first century, you have to update with the times. Sure, kids are still getting into booze, drugs, gangs and other shady business. But kids are also texting, YouTubing, Facebooking and plugging into the Twitterverse.
Michael Bacall’s screenplay adaption of Patrick Hasburg and Stephen J. Cannell’s television series canon features a new duo of awkward, bumbling cops going undercover in high schools: Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Tatum). Their challenges include blending into the new social hierarchy of modern day high school: one where the popular kids are gay, tolerable, accepting and environmentalists and the nerds are still the ones building rocket ships on the lawn.
Hill and Tatum have great chemistry and bromance together, striking an unlikely friendship. It’s comical watching Tatum cheerlead Hill’s character as he tries to overcome the physical obstacles of the police academy test while Hill tutors Tatum’s character on the written portion of the exam. In another scene the two are seen fingering each other’s mouths, trying to get each other to throw up in a bathroom stall.
Bacall’s script also does much to poke fun at the original TV series. The nondescript rundown chapel on Jump Street that was home base for the undercover program features a rather prominent Korean Jesus. Captain Dickson (Ice Cube), who runs the undercover camp, isn’t subtle about why the crew is there: “You are here because you some Justin Beaver, Miley Cirus lookin’ muthas.”
And the best parts: Undercover Officer Tom Hanson (Johnny Depp) makes a cameo and the promise of a sequel.
“21 Jump Street” was produced by Phil Lord and Chris Miller. The story was written by Michael Bacall and Jonah Hill.