– By Ben L.
Before Johnny Depp’s ascension to stardom as a Hollywood heavyweight, he starred in a late-80s TV cop show which would become his breakout role in the industry.
That show was called 21 Jump Street.
More than two decades later, the television series has found new life on the big screen. Staying true to the show’s storyline, the movie adaptation of 21 Jump Street sees Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill as two youthful-looking police officers who, after a failed arrest of a drug dealer, are reassigned to a special division headquartered at the titular address. The duo is tasked with busting a drug ring at their old high school by going undercover as brothers with new student identities.
While it is implied that Greg Jenko (Tatum) used to bully Morton Schmidt (Hill) in high school, the film cuts to the chase very quickly – both have since patched up their differences after joining the Academy and have become dependable partners. Fresh from graduation and yearning for action like what they see in films, Jenko and Schmidt hold very high self-esteem and regard for their work, even if they have been looked down upon by their superiors and peers alike. It is the excellent and humorous chemistry between the two actors that shines and forms the crux of this action comedy.
The obviously over-aged high school students mingle with their younger peers, trying their best to fit in while keeping a lookout on their suspects at the same time. Hilarity ensues when they are forced by a student dealer to consume the drug themselves in order to prove that they are not narcotic officers – the side effects are broken up into four stages of the regression of the state of mind, in which Jenko and Schmidt make a fool of themselves in a series of ludicrous acts.
Hill is known for his comedic roles in previous films, and the real surprise is the star of Step Up and G.I Joe Tatum, who proves that he is just as comfortable partaking in self-depreciating comedy as dodging bullets or hitting the dance floor. The former football star (and self-deemed symbol of ‘coolness’) of his high school finds himself enjoying the company of a bunch of nerds in his second enrollment, as they study chemistry together and conduct crazy yet childish experiments.
The humour in 21 Jump Street is further served by the directing of a seemingly stoned out Phil Lord and Chris Miller. The side effects of the drug consumption are exaggerated and absurd – in one scene the head of a P.E. Coach shrinks and is replaced by a talking ice cream cone. Action sequences are also a self-parody of typical action movies, and Michael Bay in particular becomes the subject of this ridicule – explosions are extravagant yet come at the most unexpected moments. Bullet penetrations on an inflammable gas tank fail to cause any ignition, but a slight crash into a pickup truck carrying chickens sends the whole vehicle into a fireball.
Hill co-wrote the story to be adapted into the screenplay, and it is highly likely that he was inspired by Britons Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, the masterminds behind the classic zombie comedy Shaun of the Dead. The result is a movie that is a silly yet highly entertaining twist on both teen movies and buddy comedies. As a police comedy, 21 Jump Street is comparable to the trio’s highly acclaimed Hot Fuzz, but more hilarious on an even more ridiculous level. For a film made in America, it is already a great compliment.