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Wayback Wednesday: 21 Jump Street (2012)

“Fuck You Science!”

With most remakes, reboots and adaptations, expectations are usually extremely low. The work is almost never as well-received as the material it’s based on and more often than not, has nothing new or fresh to add to the franchise. But every once in a while one remake comes along that not only far exceeds expectations, but creates a piece of work that will genuinely be loved by a new generation. In the early 2010s, that movie was 21 Jump Street (2012). I remember going to see this movie in theatres and being absolutely blown away by how self-aware, unashamedly honest, and fucking hilarious it was. If we’re destined for a future where every movie is a remake, reboot or adaptation, I sincerely hope they all turn out as well-crafted as 21 Jump Street.

Screen Shot 2019-06-04 at 7.23.27 PM
Credit: / Columbia Pictures / Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Based on the 80s TV series of the same name, 21 Jump Street follows Schmidt and Jenko, two rookie police officers eager to make their first big arrest. When they’re transferred to a secret division that utilizes the youthful looks of its officers, the partners go undercover to prevent an outbreak of drugs at a local high school.

Even in an era before blatantly ripping off old movies and TV series became the norm, 21 Jump Street stood out from the crowd. Directed by comedy-heavyweights Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the movie wastes no time poking fun at just how “unoriginal” it is. In fact, look no further than Nick Offerman’s scene-stealing cameo as Deputy Chief Hardy for the perfect summary of how self-aware this movie and its humour gets. It’s that conscious sense of mockery that makes 21 Jump Street so brilliant, a concept I’m relieved that Lord and Miller grasped when making this movie. Though the original series was a procedural drama, I think it only works in the movie’s favour that it opted to go for farcical comedy. If this movie had been a copy and paste gritty update of the original show it would have been easily forgotten the week after it was released. By going the comedy route, 21 Jump  Street sets itself apart from its predecessor, creating something new for an audience just being introduced to the franchise. Lord and Miller craft a movie that is capable of standing on its own two feet. Those two are a dream partnership. The energy, imagination, and no holds barred sense of fun that they bring to each project reminds me of two friends making videos on their parents old video camera. Except, they have a multi-million dollar budget.

Speaking of dream partnerships, Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are the comedy duo I never knew I needed. Serious question, was this the first time we got to see Channing Tatum do a full-fledged comedy? If so, what a great way to break into the genre. Tatum is wonderful. He commits to the absurdity of whatever role he plays, proving that he’s always down to clown. His chemistry with Hill feels effortless and quick, like they’ve been acting alongside each other for years. Whether it’s physical stunts, insult-laden bickering, or improvised dialogue, Hill and Tatum undoubtedly bring the funny to every scene they share. What makes their partnership so enjoyable to watch though are the underlying themes of loyalty and brotherly love you can pick up on in each scene. Who would have thought this buddy cop movie would actually have a leading duo worth going “awww” over? I’d be so down for them to become this generation’s Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor and just make a string of comedy movies together. Hey, they already made 22 Jump Street (2014). They could just do like three more of these movies. Just kidding, that would be overkill. Although, I’m 100 percent here for the rumoured reboot starring Tiffany Haddish and Awkwafina. I don’t care if it’s meta to reboot a reboot. Make it happen!

Screen Shot 2019-06-04 at 7.34.23 PM
Credit: / Columbia Pictures / Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Every scene of 21 Jump Street is filled with wonderfully absurd humour, masterful improvisation, and witty banter, made all the more enjoyable by the talented cast. What a cast! As if standout supporting roles from Jake Johnson, Ellie Kemper and Dakota Johnson weren’t enough, enter Dave Franco and Ice Cube. For the former, this is a breakthrough role that set him on his path to stardom. For the latter, it’s the perfect use of his natural charisma and comedic talent. Franco and Cube steal many of the scenes they’re in but I think the real unsung hero of this movie is Brie Larson. She’s so underrated as a comedic actress. Charming and fun, her sense of tone and her delivery are sensational. I’d really love to see her star in a major blockbuster comedy like Bridesmaids (2011). Something with a biting wit that isn’t afraid to be a little raunchy, while also still having a lot of heart. That’s what I want for Captain Marvel. By the way, you can check out my review for Captain Marvel (2019) here. God, I love when I get to shamelessly plug a review. Actually, a raunchy comedy with a mix of wit and heart is kind of what 21 Jump Street is. The jokes may be flying a mile a minute, so much so that any given scene could serve as a stand-alone comedy sketch, but at its core, this is a story about friendship.

For me, 21 Jump Street ranks right up there with The Heat (2013) and The Nice Guys (2016) as the best buddy-cop movie in recent memory. From Lord and Miller’s masterful direction, to the outrageously funny script by Hill and Michale Bacall, to the lighting in the bottle magic pairing of Hill and Tatum, 21 jump Street succeeds because of its fantastic partnerships. Maybe that’s the secret to making a great remake these days: Better partnerships. From now on I decree that all potential remakes, reboots and adaptations must be directed by, written by, and starring only the very best of duos. Will it help? Who knows. It’s not like today’s remakes can get any worse. Cough, cough, The Hustle (2019). By the way, you can check out my review for The Hustle here. Yay, another plug!

Are you a fan of 21 Jump Street?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!


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