Similar to the original television show, 21 Jump Street full movie has a gimmick of having real cops going undercover as high school students.
Still, the movie has no purchase on the peppy, action-packed and yet safe-for-middle-America territory staked out by the series, and that make the movie kind of a mix between Parker Lewis’s Can’t Lose and The Commish in terms of tone. The directors has made a live-action movie that moves like a cartoon until around the final third. The movies is fleet of foot, weightless and yet somehow deceptively physical. Shots are trimmed to the cuticles, and then a few frames more, so that already brisk sequences achieve escape velocity.
Phil Lord and Chris Miller had just made their first and only movie which is the surprisingly well-reviewed animated comedy of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs before making their remake of Steven Bochco-era relic. It’s a little surprising that the movie is liberally doused with f-bombs—less, so that it plays like a “Funny or Die” sketch expanded to feature length. Still, what’s really surprising about the movie is that it’s pretty terrific in most of parts.
As too many such adaptations have proven, turning popular TV shows into movies is a fast lane to Flopville. As in The Muppets, an early scene throws the movie under the bus for being a cynical, blatant rehash of a nearly forgotten icon of ‘80s pop culture. The audience is cut loose to enjoy the un-realness of what follows. However, in this case, Lord and Miller are amazingly more than up to the task of matching Adam McKay’s underrated comedy laugh for laugh.
Like many almost-great comedies, 21 Jump Street online is frontloaded with the best go-for-broke gags and lines. This fundamental design flaw translates to a final third that stalls out several times. Lord and Miller seem to be in abundance, they don’t have the right feet to walk in Neveldine/Taylor’s shoes. That’s why the resurrection and reinvention of 21 Jump Street movie is such a pleasant surprise. This movie embraces everything that should make it lousy. It calls out itself for aping the source’s bad ideas then flipping the script with meta-precision.
It’s a screenplay by Michael Bacall that doesn’t meet a cliché and the inspired pairing of Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum being credited for making the movie work out so well. Hill plays Morton Schmidt as a nerd with Eminem hairstyle. One of his frequent insulters is Greg Jenko (Tatum) who is a dumb jock without a future unless it’s pushing people around. Their paths cross later in police academy, where Schmidt’s brain and Jenko’s brawn lead to bicycle cop duty. They’re called on the carpet after a botched drug bust then swept under it with a new assignment. A new designer drug is on the streets, and the source seems to be the cool kids at a local high school. Schmidt and Jenko will go undercover as students to infiltrate the clique and get the goods on the drug’s supplier. The set-up isn’t any different than the TV version of 21 Jump Street movie, except for a celebrity cameo that brings down the house.
Jonah Hill has an almost unlimited reservoir of the Jonah Hill shtick. Much of the movie powered by Hill’s seemingly limitless, renewable energy. Channing Tatum is obviously new to madcap farce, but he’s the ideal straight man. He doesn’t look funny, but his gift for physical comedy is one of the film’s best surprises. Tatum’s deadpan goofiness while spoofing his action figure physique is the key to 21 Jump Street full movie working so well
That much is spelled out early by the heroes’ beleaguered captain (Nick Offerman) describing the sting operation as a recycled idea since people in charge are lazy and lack originality. That’s what many moviegoers believe about Hollywood remakes like 21 Jump Street movie, and in this case they’re wrong. The crew making 21 Jump Street don’t regurgitate a TV show, they cherish its cheesy flavor but creating something smarter than the original hoped to be.
That’s what 21 Jump Street movie has on its side for most of its running time. Long enough that when a character floated the notion of a sequel the audience at a recent screening cheered. For once, my hands clapped at the prospect.