Given our current situation as parents of a very active toddler and a born-early infant, my wife and I don’t find a lot of time where we’re just hanging out in an evening with enough time to watch a feature film. Well, one night a few weekends back we were in that rarified air on a Saturday night and decided to give Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s 21 Jump Street a look.
The basic concept is that Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) were high school adversaries who both wound up being less-than-well-balanced police academy students who got over their past to become good friends. They also get assigned to the re-opened 21 Jump Street program which takes young-looking cops and puts them into high schools to help solve crimes (the basic plot of the Fox series of the same name, of course). Their first mission puts them in a school where a new drug is making the rounds and it’s their job to bust it up. As they get to school, though, the jocky Jenko comes to realize that his ways aren’t cool anymore while Schmidt quickly gets in with the popular kids, relishing ever minute of his newfound acceptance.
This movie won me over in the first 10 minutes or so when they quickly got past the bullying stuff and got right to these guys becoming real, good friends. It reminded me a little of Hill’s similar relationship with Michael Cera’s character in Superbad because it feels honest, especially when it hits snags as the film progresses. Beyond that, it’s just a damn funny movie. I laughed so hard throughout the entire film that my throat was a little sore afterwards.
In addition to the big name leads, the film includes plenty of great cameos — including one by original series star Johnny Depp! — and the leads were fantastic, but Dave Franco really stole the show for me personally. Nothing against his brother, but I think the younger Franco might be even more charismatic. He’s captivating, plain and simple.
As far as relating back to the original material, I wasn’t a 21 Jump Street fan when the show was on. For a long time, it was a reference I’d hear, but only vaguely understood. But I did watch at least the first season on Netflix a few years back and had fun with it. So, with some knowledge going in, I’d say that Lord and Miller used the concept of the series as a spring board for something much bigger and funnier, but without making fun of the original too much.