By Tressa Eckermann, Senior Staff Writer
I’m sure half the people in attendance at the advanced screening of “21 Jump Street” either weren’t alive for or barely old enough to remember the show generally regarded as Johnny Depp’s breakout role.
But the film version, co-written by star Jonah Hill and his writing partner Michael Bacall, is completely different from the somewhat cheesy 80s show. It’s a lot raunchier, a lot sexier and totally tongue in cheek.
The movie starts in 2005 when Schmidt (Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) are high school seniors. Schmidt’s an uncomfortable nerd-or as Jenko puts it “not so Slim Shady”-because of Schmidt’s rather unusual obsession with Eminem. Jenko’s a slow-witted, popular jock. The movie skips ahead seven years, as Jenko and Schmidt enter the police academy.
Nothing’s really changed. Jenko’s still the screw-up who can’t remember things like the Miranda Rights, and Schmidt’s uncomfortable with pretty much anything. They help each other through the academy and end up as bicycle policemen.
After a botched-albeit hilarious-arrest, they are placed in an undercover program, 21 Jump Street, which is set up to investigate crimes at local high schools. Jenko and Schmidt attempt to catch the dealers of a new synthetic drug that’s already killed one student. They end up switching identities and Schmidt becomes the cool kid while Jenko has to blend in with the kids he once tortured in high school.
Of course neither blends well. “You look really old. Were you held back or something?” one character asks Jenko early in the movie. “You look really young; were you held forward?” he returns.
One of the funniest scenes in the movie is after Jenko and Schmidt take the drug and suffer the side effects. Not only does Schmidt do a beautiful musical number, but Jenko ‘destroys’ science.
I never really though much of Tatum before this movie. Sure, he’s charming and handsome, but his choice in movie roles hasn’t been stellar. “21 Jump Street” proves he’s actually capable of dropping some of the funniest lines in the movie, and on more than a few occasions actually stealing scenes from Hill.
Hill is, as usual, painfully funny and over the top. The audience started laughing before he even said a line. Hill, who co-wrote the script, actually manages to transform into a believable action star. Whether he’s praying to Korean Jesus for help or running down a highway in a Peter Pan costume, he and Tatum make an incredibly funny pair.
It’s easy to like a movie that’s based on a TV show, especially a show that wasn’t all that great. There aren’t many things wrong with this movie. In fact, almost everything works, from the inventive story, the main leads’ chemistry, its quotable one-liners and its tongue-in-cheek approach. “21 Jump Street” is really funny and well made. But if you’re still suspicious, the cameo by Johnny Depp should be well worth your money.