Opening 10 May 2012
Writing credits: Michael Bacall, Jonah Hill, Patrick Hasburgh, Stephen J. Cannell
Principal actors: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Brie Larson, Dave Franco, Rob Riggle
In Germany, where I live, the title would be Jump Street 21 since this is an address. However, it’s not Germany, but supposedly Washington state, USA (actually filmed in New Orleans, but that’s not important). The address 21 Jump Street is an abandoned church in a poor part of town which serves as headquarters for undercover policemen, led by Captain Dickson (Ice Cube). Two of the policemen are Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) who, so far, have had no success on the job. As a kind of second chance, since they are still young, they are assigned to go undercover as high school students, in order to smell out a drug dealer whose drugs are killing students. They appear as brothers, Doug and Brad, and live at Schmidt’s house (his parents are in on the deal).
Up to this point the film reflects the original five-season U.S. TV series, 1987-1991. Then, in homage to the 21st century, the film diverts from the televised version and allows for new techniques which were probably not available to television 20 years ago. It is faster; there are wild car chases (including a driver’s training car, two very long limousines, state-of-the-art motorcycles, and oil trucks which don’t explode). Today’s teenagers use filthy language references in normal conversation. I heard the word “dick” so often that it no longer seemed obscene. Everything is “cool.” Not cool, to his amazement (after being number-one cool guy during his own high school years) is Jenko. Suddenly, it’s “cool” to study hard, be a nerd, consider the environment, and be nice to your fellow students. One of these nerds, Eric (Dave Franco), an aspiring applicant for Berkeley University, is also the intermediary drug runner who interacts with tattooed motorcyclists.
A second opportunity for comparison (besides with the original TV version) is with other male comedy duos such as the Blues Brothers or Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis but especially with Laurel & Hardy, called Dick und Doof in German, which means “fat and stupid.” Here Schmidt is the fat guy who finds new recognition and love with Molly (Brie Larson) and Jenko is the stupid guy: good looking but can’t remember the 57 words in the Miranda Rights, let alone a chemistry formula in his new class.
The film is fun; at the press showing older critics had to admit that they enjoyed it, although it will probably go over best with teenagers. Hill and Tatum were also part of the production team and directors were Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. Hill definitely steals the show from Tatum. The music is fine, although the original 21 Jump Street theme song doesn’t come until the end. I especially liked the graphic art for expressing the different stages of drug influence and the opening and final credits. Some scenes, like the party, were added for effect I expect. Wear your bullet-proof vest to the prom and expect a sequel, since soon they are on their way to college. (Becky Tan)