21 Jump Street, the live-action directorial debut of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, marks ten years since its 2012 theatrical release.
The film premiered ten years ago at SXSW. I mean, it’s SXSW. If you want to launch a comedy in the spring, you must premiere at SXSW. Neighbors. Blockers. Long Shot. Booksmart. The list goes on and on. Austin offers one of the best experiences by far. SXSW is my favorite film festival because of the experience. I’m only sorry that I cannot attend this year because transgender rights are under attack.
“We’re reviving a canceled undercover police program from the ’80s and revamping it for modern times. You see the guys in charge of this stuff lack creativity and are completely out of ideas, so all they do now is recycle shit from the past and expect us all not to notice.” – Deputy Chief Hardy (Nick Offerman)
I keep coming back to this quote over the years because it’s so true. While some original films make it through the cracks, almost everything these days is a sequel, reboot, or remake. No matter how much we collectively complain about this, our wallets are what do the talking and we keep rewarding Hollywood for this behavior. The end result is more of the same and they just recycle the same old shit and expect us not to notice. It’s been ten years and nothing has changed. The release of 21 Jump Street was followed by a sequel, 22 Jump Street. The sequel features an indefensible transphobic scene. I’ve yet to reach out to Phil Lord and Chris Miller about this but I’d like to think that they’d do things differently.
The comedy movie is set within the same universe as the dramatic TV series. Naturally, both Johnny Depp and Peter DeLuise make cameo appearances. Thankfully, the studio did not not market the cameos. This decision works for the film. Once you know that the originals are in it, it takes away from the experience. Personally, I prefer the jaw-dropping shock than know spoilers in advance. You might feel differently, of course.
We first meet Morton Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Greg Jenko (Channing Tatum) when they’re in high school. Cut to seven years later and they’re both students at the Metropolitan City Police Academy. They weren’t friends in school but they become friends during the academy and on bike patrol. I love how they joke about ending up on bike patrol. Movies just aren’t realistic because they historically show rookie cops out in the field and running from explosions and such. When they finally catch one of the one percenters, Jenko doesn’t read him the Miranda rights and so all the charges got dropped. It’s soon thereafter that they meet with Deputy Chief Hardy and get resigned to 21 Jump Street.
Captain Dickson (Ice Cube) assigns them to Sagan High School in order to stop HFS from spreading. They might have a fresh start to experiencing high school all over again but they have to be careful not to blow their cover. Schmidt develops an interest in one of the students, Molly (Brie Larson). Meanwhile, Jenko finds himself as the sexual interest of science teacher Ms. Griggs (Ellie Kemper). They eventually learn who is behind HFS and why. Unfortunately, they find themselves without a job after disrupting the play. Not unlike romantic comedies, both Schmidt and Jenko have a falling out. They eventually make up with each other just before prom.
By the end of the film, the door is open to a sequel set in college. A film where, much like this one, is more of the same. Well, except for the transphobia and homophobia in the sequel because that kind of humor just is not funny. You can only do so much with the undercover genre without remaking the same film over and over again. I’m sorry but I have very strong feelings about remakes and reboots.
DIRECTORS: Phil Lord & Christopher Miller
SCREENWRITERS: Michael Bacall
CAST: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Brie Larson, Dave Franco, Rob Riggle, DeRay Davis, with Ice Cube
Columbia and MGM released 21 Jump Street in theaters on March 16, 2012. Grade: 4/5
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