Arts & Life, Movies

Navigating Netflix: 21 Jump Street

Sometimes a movie catches you completely off guard. You go into it expecting absolutely nothing and, in some cases, you’re expecting less than absolutely nothing. Big screen remakes of TV series rarely fill one’s heart with optimism, and you can double that worry if the movie is based on a Saturday Night Live sketch. As such, a lot of people were wary of the 21 Jump Street remake starring Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill.

I freely admit I was one of those people. Wow, was I wrong.

If you’re unfamiliar with the TV series, it was a late 80s police procedural about a squad of cops who looked young and were used to infiltrate high schools, colleges, and all the other places them crazy kids like to go. Arcades and whatnot. It was an early break for one of the series main actors, Johnny Depp, and also featured a barrage of guest appearances from future A-listers like Josh Brolin, Brad Pitt, and Vince Vaughn. The 2012 big screen revamp has pretty much the same plot, just condensed into one movie instead of five seasons of TV. It’s also actually in continuity with the TV series.

There are a lot of surprising things about this movie, the big one being that it’s actually funny. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum make an engaging crime-fighting duo. One of them is the brains and the other one the brawn though which is which is questionable at times. And they play well together on screen, with Tatum actually delivering more than his fair share of laughs. Both of them are ridiculous and frequently over-the-top as are Chris Parnell, Ellie Kemper, Nick Offerman, and Rob Riggle. And there’s nothing quite like watching Ice Cube on screen while “Straight Outta Compton” plays in the background.

One of the funniest moments of the film is when Tatum and Hill are being dressed down by Nick Offerman’s character before being sent to Jump Street. The essential premise of the scene is that Offerman is deriding the Jump Street program as another relic from the 80s being brought back by unimaginative bureaucrats, comments made by many about the movie’s development. The acknowledgement of such criticisms within the film itself is shockingly self-aware for a movie of this genre.

Beyond that, the story is pretty much what you would expect from a buddy cop film with this combination of comedy and action. That being said, it’s not pretending to be any more than exactly that which is refreshing in its own way.

Ultimately, 21 Jump Street isn’t reinventing the wheel. It offers bigger than expected laughs and a story more engaging than expected thanks to several great performances by some truly funny actors. And with the thoroughly expected sequel out this year that hopefully won’t stomp all over the laughs from the first movie, now is a great time to check out a film a lot of people probably wrote off as just another reboot without watching it like I almost did.