‘21 Jump Street’ a frustratingly missed opportunity

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

 

Pitchforks: 3/5

Starring: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum

Rated: R

Release date: March 16, 2012

 

Early reports portrayed the ‘80s revamped television show turned major motion picture “21 Jump Street” as near perfect. Ten days ago RottenTomatoes.com was boasting a 100 percent debut rating.

This seemed impossible, regardless of how excited everyone was to see the film. After a few days of course, reason and objectivity began to enter the mix as the films rating is now around 85 percent.

The film pits Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum), two fresh young police officers, with an undercover police sting operation designed to infiltrate serious crimes against, possibly even by, younger would-be criminals. Schmidt and Jenko are tasked to uncover and take down a high school drug dealer.

Most of the people the film targets have probably only seen “21 Jump Street” while reading Johnny Depp’s Wikipedia page under “Acting career, Television.” Netflix and the film’s production company really missed an opportunity to stream this iconic television show in anticipation of the films release.

Hindsight is always 20/20. Surely those involved have seen what could have been done differently to actually make the film worthy of its inflated positive reviews.

It isn’t a complete waste of time, but if you’re expecting to be sore from laughter by the film’s end, the movie’s appeal will quickly fade.

Actor Nick Offerman from “Parks and Recreation” fame briefly but beautifully plays embittered Deputy Chief Hardy. Throughout the film, jabs and one-liners are taken at Hollywood’s expense for once again attempting to revive “a classic” staple in the history of television and film. Deputy Chief Hardy does more than just capture the clear problem Hollywood — lack of authenticity.

The movie is slow and awkward in the beginning, attempting to cram down the throats of everyone in the audience how and why two grown men are going back to high school, incognito.

The scene with Offerman, Hill and Tatum captures the frustrations of actors in this day and age being reduced to fill the shoes of, in the case of “21 Jump Street,” moderately interesting TV personas of yesteryear.

Tatum and Hill are a potentially great comic pairing. Viewers can only hope the two venture into other, more daring works in the future. What “21 Jump Street” does a decent job at is the portrayal of day-to-day events that are saturated with subtlety. Absurdities, awkwardness,  phobias and even real life explosions (or lack thereof) are relatable — but at times distracts.

Originality in comedy, in art, in anything cannot be replicated or mass-produced. The original television series arguably did as best as one can do — and it was done just over 20 years ago.

Films should go big or go home. The film “21 Jump Street” lets fans of the television series down in this endeavor. Many will see it, many will love the simple, gross, crude, drug-riddled humor, but some might find more enjoyment in staying home and watching Drew Barrymore’s “Never Been Kissed” from 1999.

 

Reach the reporter at jbfortne@asu.edu

 

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