21 Jump Street Phil Lord and Chris Miller

21 Jump Street Phil Lord and Chris Miller
What's a movie studio to do when they've got a television property made more popular by association with Johnny Depp's later fame than during its initial run and no idea of what to do with it? The first thing that leapt to mind for a producer at Sony was to see if Jonah Hill had a take. That strange instinct, as recounted in "Back to School," a brief, superficial account of how the project came together on this features-light DVD, turned out to be a gamble with a handsome payout. In a field crowded with completely unnecessary reboots of old ideas, Hill and directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller struck upon a mix of slapstick, superficial social commentary and a great deal of winking, self-referential gags. By acknowledging up front that the very idea of recycling an idea like a special unit of baby-faced police officers posing as teens to bust youth crimes is idiotic, the filmmakers are freed up to make ludicrous laugh attempts the only law they're answerable to. So it's "funny" that Jonah Hill and living Ken-doll Channing Tatum (G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Step Up) play their high school selves ― the archetypical adversarial jock and the dweeb ― who find friendship via their complementary skill sets and shortcomings when they both enrol in police academy after graduation. Blowing even their meagre status as bike cops by being immature knobs, the law enforcement odd couple get transferred to 21 Jump Street, where a perpetually pissed-off Ice Cube puts them on the case of a wild and potentially lethal new drug making the rounds at a local high school. The assortment of social hierarchy reversal gags, occasionally creative crudities, semi-satirical action flick jabs and moments of surprisingly effective physical comedy from Tatum are fired off with all the subtlety of someone painting a portrait with a condiment-filled machine gun. As a result, a heck of a lot of the jokes miss their mark, but the safe, minor acts of irreverence that fill the gaps obviously play well to mainstream audiences. For this reviewer's money, the handful of deleted scenes and a feature commentary with Hill, Tatum and the directors contain more laughs than the film proper. That's mostly because you get a random, unfiltered Hill cracking wise, revealing that the man who stared in Are We There Yet? was too embarrassed to utter the suggested line of "gargle my balls." Instead opting for a much more manly, "suck my dick," O.G., indeed. (Sony)