“21 Jump Street” is not what you would expect. Since “Super Bad,” audiences have become familiar with the traditional Jonah Hill vehicle, “Cyrus” “Get Him to the Greek,” “The Sitter” and other like-minded movies where he fills a similar role, though not a primary one, like “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” or “Knocked Up.”
Along with Jonah Hill flicks, today’s movie-going audience has also become accustomed to reboots, even reboots adapted from TV sitcoms, such as “Starsky & Hutch,” “Miami Vice” and “Bewitched” for example.
For these reasons, I was more than skeptical about this movie and actually had to be dragged to it. After all, “21 Jump Street” is a buddy comedy based off an ’80s sitcom, a recipe that has recurred numerous times during the past couple years with mostly unfavorable results. That, coupled with a lackluster trailer, lead me to believe that I knew exactly what kind of movie “21 Jump Street” was going to be. I had no idea.
“21 Jump Street” is anything but predictable. In fact, the erratic nature of the film, from the dialogue to the presentation, largely accounts for its unique charm. The comedy is based off of a not as hilarious sitcom of the same name. Before the movie, the “21 Jump Street” sitcom was mostly forgotten among television history and it most definitely would have disappeared into complete obscurity if it hadn’t served as the launching pad for a certain Johnny Depp.
Jonah Hill’s “21 Jump Street” takes Johnny Depp’s dramatic roots and turns it on its head. Hill’s version invents new modern-day back-stories for the leading protagonists and adds significant nuance to their characters. At a glance, Hill and Channing Tatum’s characters play the quintessential nerd and jock roles respectively, however, as the film progresses and we learn more about the characters, we see that they are much more complex and diverse than roles we would expect them to fill. The distinction between jock and nerd has become strictly outdated in cinema and in society.
“21 Jump Street” is fast and unconventional in its direction, witty in its satire, clever in its concept and at the same time outright hilarious in its vile quips. This is a movie with a soundtrack that consists mostly of Dubstep. This is a movie that riffs on its outdated source material at its own expense. This is a movie that is aware of the internet-meme-centric world its demographic is steeped in and uses those things in a fresh and entertaining way.
This movie redefines the traditional character roles and story formats that so many buddy comedies before it have tragically copied. And, most importantly, this movie is funny. For these reasons “21 Jump Street” demonstrates that reboots can be done well, and its success proves that the old fashioned tried and true formulas ought to be challenged.
Titanic in 3D. A lot like the last time you saw it except with more smokestacks in your face and significantly more expensive.
The Hunger Games. It’s for the people who read the book.
Ian Storey/For the Review
Ian Storey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.