Remakes, reboots, and sequels are getting so desperate that at this point I’m starting to lose hope. Every crappy ’80s show and every crappy ’80s movie is getting remade or rebooted or is being blessed with an unnecessary sequel that really just does nothing for the original film’s reputation. Granted there are some pretty great ones, like Fright Night and TRON: Legacy, but overall, it’s sad how little creativity there is in Hollywood.
Thankfully, not only does 21 Jump Street belong in the same league as reboots like Fright Night and TRON: Legacy, it surpasses them. Set as a sequel taking place in the present day, a good 25 years after the original show, Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as Schmidt and Jenko, respectively, two dim-witted bicycle cops who, after failing to follow through with a drug bust, are reassigned to the 21 Jump Street division.
This particular division uses police officers who look young and puts them in high schools where drugs are being circulated and spread throughout the county. The mission this time? Sagan High School. The goal is to stop a synthetic drug that is quickly gaining popularity with Sagan High students. Schmidt and Jenko, along with some other young-looking officers, are sent to stop the distribution of the drug, as well as to find the supplier. Told to blend in, the pair of bumbling cops do anything but as they try to stop the dealers from spreading the drug to other schools.
During their first day at Sagan, Schmidt and Jenko learn that things definitely aren’t how they used to be. People are more sensitive, studying is cool, recycling is cool, gay rights are cool, even environmentally friendly cars are cool. At the top of the food chain is Eric Molson (Dave Franco), who Schmidt and Jenko suspect is the school’s major dealer. Together, Schmidt and Jenko work with the student body to bring Eric to justice.
When you think of ’80s TV shows that should be remade into movies, 21 Jump Street, probably isn’t at the top of your list. As it should be because, frankly, the original show just isn’t that good. Transforming Johnny Depp into a superstar is pretty much the only thing the show ever did right, and after its cancellation, it was kind of forgotten about. But through Michael Bacall’s genius screenplay, 21 Jump Street becomes one of the best teen comedies of the past few years.
Before I continue I’d like to celebrate the revelation that is Michael Bacall. In short, the man understands teenagers better than teenagers understand themselves. Writing the script for the 2001 film Manic, starring still budding stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel was only the beginning. From there he wrote Bookies which starred a still relatively unknown Johnny Galecki and Lukas Haas, but it was with 2010’s Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World where his writing career really took off. 2012 brings two of his screenplays, this film and Project X, to life. Looking at a resume like that, it’s no wonder the man is able to create a film that simultaneously contains loads of action as well as the fact that it rings so damn true to the trials and tribulations of adolescence.
The self-aware, smart, and raunchy jokes are in full effect as directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, known for their animated film Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, go so far as to almost break the fourth wall with the film’s realizations of how tired and overused cliches and remakes are. With a pitch-perfect script and some great direction, 21 Jump Street was already on its way to becoming a comedy classic, but it’s the dangerously bromantic chemistry between Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum that really catapults the film into genius territory. The two play off each other so well, I could have seriously just watched an entire movie about them just hanging out, eating pretzels, and talking about whatever the hell they wanted to.
Dave Franco also turns in a surprisingly strong and rounded performance, changing up the usual douchebaggy teen villain, and actually creating a character worthy of his own subplot. Rob Riggle and Ice Cube also bring in a lot of laughs as one of Sagan’s teachers and Captain Dickson, respectively.
In short, 21 Jump Street is a quintessential teen comedy that will be remembered for years to come as that movie that defied all expectations, and literally stopped everyone in their tracks. The balance of crude and sentimental humor makes it appealing to almost anyone who sees it, as I saw everyone from 14-year-old boys to 75-year-old couples walking out of the theater, raving about how much they loved it. Not only is 21 Jump Street the funniest comedy of the year, it’s also one of the best films of the year, something I never thought I’d actually be saying.