Kids these days, with their Pinterests and Dubstepping. Not even halfway though my twenties, I have to admit that I’m already looking back on teenagers and asking myself what the hell is the matter with that.
Today’s remake / reimagining / whatever of 21 Jump Street, despite the franchise’s age being older than high schoolers, is going right after that demographic. But unlike some of that generation’s favorites, 21 Jump Street sort of translates to older audiences – as long as you can keep pace with its breakneck speed.
As alluded to earlier, the movie is mining a franchise of the past for its source material. I’m too young and beautiful to have ever seen an episode of the original television series, which ran from 1987 to 1991, but I feel safe saying the feature film is nothing like the original. The time stamp on today’s 21 Jump Street is so unmistakably 2012 that it’s impossible to imagine it could have been made even a year ago – even today, it’s surprising that a major Hollywood Studio sunk a modest budget (reportedly $42 million) into an attention-deficit-obsessed, hard-R comedy.
In it, next-big leading man Channing Tatum (brawny) is forced to team up with Jonah Hill (brainy) as an undercover cop buddy-duo and infiltrate a drug ring from its High School roots. Things get complicated when the Hill’s otherwise dorky character meets a pretty girl that actually likes him, and Tatum ends up himself eating lunch in the Chemistry room with dorky classmates playing trading card games. All that gets thrown out when the bad guys show up, and whether Hill and Tatum can overcome their silly quarrels over popularity and girls throws makes for an even more dangerous situation.
21 Jump Street takes a familiar buddy-cop story line and invigorates it with gleeful observation of its clichés. It gladly acknowledges the fourth wall on multiple occasions, at one point even declaring “Embrace your stereotype! It does this while spitting out silly performances and one-liners almost constantly.
Much more so than the original series, 21 Jump Street‘s main influencer is YouTube (one of the supporting actors even got his start in the medium). Quick, comedic cutting,, photo-shopped title cards, and completely unnecessary explosions all thrown together make for a feature-length version of the website – all you need is some cats and 9×16 framing and you’re basically watching the website.
That could be a recipe for disaster; in fact, it really ought to be. But the movie takes so much pleasure in its irreverence that it’s impossible not to fall for its charms. And even if they didn’t work for you, another joke is likely to drop any second now to distract you from any disappointment.
21 Jump Street can usually keep up with its own ambition, but sometimes its flurry of absurdity is just too much. Action sequences only work within the context of comedy, and many won’t be interested in watching a movie cut so fast that lasts closer to two hours than ninety minutes.
But if you’re in High School, there aren’t many better ways to kick of Spring Break than with something this taylor-fit to your sensibilities. And even if you’re not, you may find that teenagers aren’t as difficult to relate to with 21 Jump Street than they normally are.