This post is the original copy of the review published 1st April 2012, in our column ‘Animadversion’ (iMAGES on Sunday, Dawn Newspaper). Link to Dawn.com for the published version is at the end of the post.
Fresh Imbeciles! –– The Undercover Cops of the New Generation
By Mohammad Kamran Jawaid
As in the case of any remake – television, feature film, video game or book – the affinity towards how well it is adapted depends on a singular prospect: the sincerity, and predisposition of its adaptors. In 21 Jump Street’s case, the reservation isn’t about how well is it adapted. The question here would be: is it adapted at all.
The simple answer would be “No”.
Those out of the 80’s would remember 21 Jump Street (by television veteran Stephen J. Cannell) as Johnny Depp’s original ascension to stardom. Before he became a heavily mascaraed (and whimsy-drunk) Pirate, he was a hot-headed, grumpy-looking lead in television.
The series was a procedural police drama centering on young-looking cops that infiltrate scholastic establishments to uncover and end drug and delinquency. The new version, staring Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum (as Morton Schmidt and Greg Jenko), is less about police drama – or procedure. Yet, somehow the idea clicks, in spite of itself.
Keeping it current, we are in a present day continuation and our focus in fixed on a semi-brainless jock (Greg) and a geek (Morton), who find themselves enrolled in an undercover police division operating from Jump Street Chapel (the series’ original HQ).
Our leads are also-rans, boorish and puerile. Regardless of police training they have yet to make an official arrest. If a scholarly-minded critic would theorize the film, then Jump Street would be about the lead’s mental graduation.
Greg and Morton are plucked from their areas of expertise as soon as they enroll in school. The jock gets assigned to the geeks, and the geek gets the environmentalists – who are now the popular kids in school.
In a weird Twilight Zone moment, Morton discovers that today comic book-geeks, tech-savvy nerds and eco-warriors are the hot-stuff of the High School world. If he would have been in school today (which he is), he would be one of the “cool ones”.
Becoming cool almost defeats their assignment, which was to uncover the ring behind a new drug. One that is nearly out in the market.
Morton, undercover as a teenager, virtually loses himself in his make-believe character, now that he has fame and a potential girlfriend (Brie Larson). Ensnared in identity crisis, in one scene he exclaims “Just think! I could go on to be a doctor one day”. Greg retorts, “You’re in too deep, man”.
The parody of the moment is not lost, because the screenplay brazenly accepts the charm of offbeat scenarios. Written by Michael Bacall, (based on the story by Hill and Bacall), Jump Street manages to root the audience with its ludicrous wit and the likeability of Greg and Morton.
Unlike Green Hornet (also from Columbia Pictures), which buckled under the weight of its daffy (and inept) modernization, Jump Street runs wild with its kookiness. Like most crude-humored flicks, there’s often a surplus of exuberance that justly earns the movie its “R” certification. The humor is foul-mouthed but its timing is of crack-shot perfection.
Co-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller (another of the year’s animation graduates) have keenly crafted a small, light-weight gem. And as their previous credit, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, the duo continues to trend the hottest trending in Hollywood – the celebration of perennial losers and geeks; the handicapped underdogs of 21st century filmmaking.
While the formula may not work every time, it suits 21 Jump Street just fine.
Released by Columbia Pictures, 21 Jump Street stars: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Brie Larson, Dave Franco, Ellie Kemper, Rob Riggle and Ice Cube. The film is produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Original Film, Lord Miller Productions and Relativity Media.
It is rated R for crude language and cartoony drug use.
The published version is at: http://www.dawn.com/2012/04/01/animadversion-rookies-and-imbeciles.html