The term ‘remake’ is enough to reduce the toughest of cinephiles into trembling wrecks with the inevitable feeling of ‘what have they decided to bastardise now?‘ However, directing duo Phil Lord and Chris Miller are fully aware of the common ground they’re treading in Hollywood. What’s refreshing is their take; void is their attempt to rehash something outdated, but instead poke fun at their efforts for doing so.
Laughing stocks Schmidt (Hill) and Jenko (Tatum) are reassigned to work undercover and infiltrate a local high school in order to track down an elusive supplier of a new synthetic drug sweeping through the classrooms as extracurricular activity of choice. The hapless effective duo remain inconspicuous as they blend in with the demographic, as intentionally stereotypically hard-ass Captain Dickson (Ice Cube) demands quick results.
What tends to stick with you — apart from the film being consistently hilarious and witty — are the leads: both Hill and Tatum complement one another surprisingly well, with the latter transforming himself into a comedic role with effortless ease and striking effect. He’s arguably the most likeable thing about the movie; could he have finally found his niche?
In contrast, the expectancy of the central pairing is flipped on its head, as they embark on a return to high school assuming the balance of jock-to-nerd power is still the same as circa 1995; the buff, athletic jock Jenko is quickly exposed as an outdated stereotype as he struggles to fit in. On the other hand, the more reserved Schmidt’s considerate and sensitive nature deems him the ‘cool kid’, which is a modern and culturally relevant slant on the high school genre. This change is illustrated perfectly when the pair turn up for their first day of school and can’t decide whether to ‘one strap’ their rucksacks or not.
From the moment the film begins, it’s clear that the script is utterly aware of itself: dialogue oozes cliché, yet remains charming with its self-parody. It might feel a little heavy-handed in its approach, but nonetheless has to be commended for its all-out self-mockery.
Indeed, it is upon repeat viewings that the more subtle lines are picked up. One in particular ‘look at us, we’re clever’ moments comes after a production of Peter Pan is cut short, as the drama teacher announces “And that’s the end of Act Two,” just as the movie’s third is about to begin. Such nuances make 21 Jump Street not only a hugely enjoyable first watch, but a comedy that has much longevity, too.
The script is tightly written and has some lovely dialogue that, again, nods at its own tongue-in-cheek attitude, pulling off joke after joke to pleasing effect. We’re offered a continually fast paced, action packed and very, very funny story that stands out for being far more memorable than any of its counterparts. Dave Franco impresses with a supporting role as eco-friendly, popular teen Eric, as does scene-stealer Rob Riggle as gym teacher Mr. Walters.
The Blu-ray picture quality is as you’d expect: crisp, vibrant and sharp in its 1080p glory and the sound is (even without 5.1 Surround Sound) clear.
The extras offer a substantial array of six featurettes that include short behind-the-scenes footage of the cast and crew, as well as the original 21 Jump Street TV show cast. Deleted and extended scenes are hit-and-miss, but the ad lib provides a few more laughs that never made it into the final cut of the movie. We’ve got an amusing gag reel as well as a director and cast commentary.
In conclusion, 21 Jump Street is brilliantly unsubtle, witty and hilarious. The pairing of Tatum and Hill is a stroke of genius, as the former really settles into the genre quickly, perhaps finding his calling. Not only is this the funniest film of 2012, it’s also the smartest of the last five years or more.