TL:DR version? It’s a hoot – go rent it.
When the 2012 reinvention of “21 Jump Street” was announced, I confess to having had misgivings about it.
For one thing, remakes are the work of enfeebled minds, so utterly in thrall to easy cash and terrified of producing anything original that they desperately seek anything to remake, as the heavy conceptual lifting has already been done by somebody else. All that has to be done by the ‘creative’ brains trust bringing the new version to life is to cut-and-paste contemporary pin-up actors and new music into the mix and make the marketing campaign obnoxious enough to bring teens to the theatres in their droves on date night.
For another thing, this is “21 Jump Street”, dude! Though utterly rubbish in execution, possessed of severely reactionary politics and as plausible and true to life as a “Fast & Furious” movie, the Johnny Depp, Holly Robinson, Dustin Nguyen and Peter DeLuise baby-faced cops undercover tv drama was a staple of my teen years and any new pretender to the throne couldn’t possibly do anything to justify its existence. Misbegotten, I say to you sir/madam – misbegotten!
Happily, it turns out after a viewing of said foul remake that I’m full of shizz and can inform you that this remake of the 80’s TV show is arguably one of the funniest comedies in years, managing the tricky feat of balancing the demands of obnoxious bromance bobbins, fast-paced action, well-observed high school clique tale and meta, self-aware comedy quite brilliantly.
A large part of the success of this film, after the bonkers direction of Phil Lord and Chris Miller (previous film – “Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs”!) and Michael Bacall‘s deranged screenplay, is the playing of Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill. Their on-screen chemistry is so immediate and so convincing that you find yourself pleasantly surprised by it and wonder why nobody thought to combine the two before – their bickering, name-calling and self-aware idiocy are a delight to behold, from their initial meet cute to the middle of the film, where the script contrives splendidly to play with our expectations of the actors, making nerdy, chubby motormouth Hill the most popular kid in school and buff man mountain Tatum seek solace in the bosom of the school’s science nerds.
There’s a plot – something-something-designer-drugs-in-high-school-hey-guns-lots-of-guns! – but it scarcely matters when the jokes are as funny as they are in this film and when our expectations are pretty much undercut at every turn, from character to incident. I’m not saying that this film reinvents our experience of cinema or anything as profound as that, but the combination of likeable characters, unexpected events, non sequitur wit and blithe mayhem does manage to make what could have been a by-the-numbers cop flick ever so more palatable and enjoyable than I ever expected it to be.
Tatum, for example, is a joy in this film – I had him pegged as a dopey pin-up with minimal acting talent but he’s the funniest and most charming leading man who you could hope for, given the right material. After seeing this, I suspect that the decision to delay this summer’s “G.I. Joe – Retaliation” to 2013 has bugger all to do with slapping a 3D makeover on the movie and everything to do with the fact that Tatum’s character being killed off in the original version managed to unceremoniously get rid of the biggest movie star in the damn flick – three of his movies this year have cracked a hundred million at the US box office and I’d be willing to stake my size 14 Vans on the fact that he’s the reason for those numbers.
A rare sequel that I’m actually looking forward to – if it has more Ice Cube shouting and being grumpy, more unexpected cameos and more barely allowable filth, then I’m there on opening weekend…
- Jonah Hill Talks 21 JUMP STREET Sequel; Says They’re Writing the Script Now and Filming Begins September 2013 (collider.com)
- ’21 Jump Street’ Sequel To Begin Filming In The Fall (moviesblog.mtv.com)
- ’21 Jump Street 2′ Could Shoot This Fall; ‘Men in Black 4′ and Rebooted ‘Jumanji’ in Development (slashfilm.com)