The night that the feature-length edition of 21 Jump Street came out, I wrote: “A buddy film with heart, soul, action, and laughter from the very beginning through the closing credits, 21 Jump Street is the movie that every remake director has hoped to achieve: it made me forget how much I dislike the original. I… wish that every hater who said they’d never see it for one reason or another will kick up their feet and laugh along. Sometimes, that’s all the therapy we need.” Months later, I was half-afraid to sit down and watch the DVD release. Could it actually be that side-splittingly funny again?
A mash-up of everything high school, 1980s, and undercover cop, 21 Jump Street is hilarious in its Judd Apatow-styled way. Or is that Michael Bay? Or is it some stepchild of Apatow and Bay mixed in with a significant amount of crazy drugs? From Phil Lord and Chris Miller (Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs, their other claim to fame), the story finds our two mismatched, undercover cops (Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill) investigating a drug ring after the death of a high school student.
Tatum proves funnier than we’ve seen him before, while Hill shows a wider acting range than he has anywhere other than Moneyball. Whether they are fighting off the effects of a drug they’re forced to take, trying to master the art of sliding over the hood of a car, performing Shakespeare, answering complicated chemistry questions, or fitting in with the group of people that’s their opposite, the two prove to be hysterically funny all on their own. Of course, the film itself is helped along by the inclusion of comedians like Rob Riggle and Johnny Simmons, and the indefatigable Ice Cube.
The comedy is often raunchy, but unlike something like That’s My Boy, the comedy fits within itself. We’re joined with the filmmakers in mocking Hollywood, remakes, the 1980s, buddy expectations, high school, and anything else we might draw an allusion to. It’s funny because it’s clever and because we’re in on the jokes (well, as long as we lived in the 1980s.)
I focused on the “covalent bonding” before, but this time around, I was stuck by how “the outsiders become insiders” and vice versa. Jesus said that the last would be first and the first last, and told parables about including the least respected within your community. The same proves true here in 1 Jump Street, where the nerdy (Hill) becomes cool and the jock (Tatum) recognizes that his perceptions of people were all wrong. What seemed to be important proves to be inessential, and what was overlooked becomes vitally important.
With commentary from Lord, Miller, Tatum and Hill, the four deleted scenes, and a featurette called “Back to School” that takes you inside the development, the DVD is also one you can take on the go thanks to the ultraviolet transfer availability. If you ever wanted to relive high school (and live it differently), then this story and its background are here for you. Laughs included.