Starring: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Brie Larson
Directed by: Phil Lord (“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”) and Chris Miller (“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”)
Written by: Michael Bacall (“Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World”)
Considering the handful of ’80s TV shows adapted into films over the last decade, it’s impossible not to dread the idea of “Manimal” or “Magnum P.I.” finding their way to the big screen anytime soon. Even as popular as the retro revival is today — from skinny jeans to the resurgence of 3D movies — there’s really no excuse for things like Michael Mann slummin’ with “Miami Vice” or the intentional ridiculousness of “The A-Team.” For obvious reasons, we’ll give Jessica Simpson wearing Daisy Dukes a pass for now.
Yet on the heels of these substandard movie versions comes the surprisingly clever and often funny “21 Jump Street,” an adaptation of the TV series that launched teen heartthrob Johnny Depp’s career in 1987. While the plot itself leaves much to be desired, screenwriter Michael Bacall (scribe of the overrated “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”) and directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller (the duo behind the deliciously entertaining “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”) use the kitschy nature of the crime show to their advantage by mocking its own drawbacks. More telling is their recognition that a “21 Jump Street” movie isn’t necessarily something fans of the series were begging Hollywood to make. With the pressure at a manageable level, the filmmakers toss all logic aside, don’t overdo the nostalgia, and simply have fun with it.
Starring hunky Channing Tatum (“The Vow”) and not so chunky Jonah Hill (“Moneyball”) coming off his first Oscar nomination, “21 Jump Street” takes the procedural buddy cop setup and injects some much-needed energy into the tired formula. Assigned to go undercover as high school students to find the supplier of a new hip, hallucinatory drug students are dropping, rookie police officers Jenko (Tatum) and Schmidt (Hill) maneuver their way through the social network of a younger generation. It’s not just about popular kids and nerds anymore, as we learn when Schmidt points out a group of Asian girls hanging out before class dressed like punk manga comic book characters and asks, “What the hell are those?!”
Like Drew Barrymore in the 1999 rom-com “Never Been Kissed,” Hill and Tatum are forced to revisit their awkward teenage years (Jenko was a dumb jock; Schmidt was a wastoid) and do so with some sharp comedic timing. Neither will ever be able to pull off Peter DeLuise’s mullet, but the hilarious Hill and Tatum tandem is a good enough reason as any to ignore ’80s TV show-turned-movie history and (cue Holly Robinson) jump down on Jump Street.