When it comes to old televisions shows and cartoons being made into feature films, I have mixed feelings. I found some adaptations to be quite enjoyable like The Beverly Hillbillies, Get Smart, The A-Team, Transformers; on the other hand, there were a few flops such as Dukes of Hazzard, The Flintstones, Land of the Lost, Miami Vice, Reno 911: Miami, Yogi Bear and Starsky and Hutch. This brings us to the latest adaptation, 21 Jump Street. While I was unfamiliar with the TV show, meaning I never watched it, the film’s trailer gave me high hopes.
IDMb explains 21 Jump Street’s premise: “A pair of underachieving cops are sent back to a local high school to blend in and bring down a synthetic drug ring.” The concept may be the same as the TV show, but things were taken in a comedic direction for the film, which was, in my opinion, an excellent decision.
With an “R” rating, directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller had plenty of room to play around with Michael Bacall's and Jonah Hill’s script. Speaking of Hill, this guy has come a long way. This is the first film where his extreme weight loss was showcased, and I must say his transformation from his 40-Year-Old Virgin days to now is nothing less than amazing. I must admit that I haven’t seen Moneyball, where I hear Hill put in a great performance, but I can comfortably say that he has established himself as an A-list comedy star in this point of his career.
Joining Hill, who plays Schmidt in the film, was former male-dancer-turned-actor Channing Tatum. My feelings on Tatum vary with his roles and while I’ve been pleased with him in action and romantic movies in the past, I questioned his ability as a lead in a comedy. In 21 Jump Street, Tatum plays Jenko, a nod to the TV series’ Captain Richard Jenko (played by Frederic Forrest, and I must say he did a good job portraying a jock simpleton eager to learn and prove himself.
Both Hill and Tatum made me laugh throughout the film, and as opposite as they may be, they turned out to be quite the comedic duo. I had heard that Tatum originally turned down the role twice, but eventually took it at Hill’s urging. Clearly the latter knows the best man for the job, because it was a recipe that worked.
Dave Franco, who played synthetic drug distributor Eric Molson, is the younger brother of very successful actor James Franco and put in an impressive performance. With similar good looks and acting chops, don’t be surprised to see the younger Franco in more films moving forward.
With that said, I was disappointed that the film didn’t take advantage of some of the actors they had in supporting roles like IceCube, Chris Parnell, Ellie Kemper and Nick Offerman. All of these actors are extremely talented, but were used in bit roles; for example, Offerman, who plays Ron Swanson on NBC’s Parks and Recreation, was in the film for just one scene. He made the most of his screen time though, delivering a funny line when he sends Schmidt and Jenko to their new assignment down on “37 Jump Street. Wait, that can’t be right.”
Speaking of bit roles, the filmmakers did give fans a little treat with cameos throughout featuring cast members from the TV show including Holly Robinson Peete (Officer Judy Hoffs), Peter DeLuise (Penhall) and the cherry on the top, Johnny Depp (Tom Hanson). I won’t give too much away, but I imagine fans of the series will be ecstatic with these scenes.
While 21 Jump Street was a comedy, it also had some decent action and the obligatory love story. It does a good job transporting the audience back to high school, though the actors in the film certainly aren't teenagers; nonetheless, I couldn’t help wonder what I would do different if I got a second chance at high school, a choice that is played out through the two main characters.
21 Jump Street isn’t going to win any Oscars, but it is a more than satisfactory comedy that walks a fine line between being too serious and over the top. Throw in some good performances and some raunchiness, and it’s my guess you’ll be leaving the theater with a smile, I know I did.
Buddies Forever Movie Club Rating: 80%
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