Saturday, April 14, 2012

Undercover, under pressure

Those familiar with the ‘80s teen drama series “21 Jump Street” may have scoffed when Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill were cast in the movie version. But surprisingly, this big-screen iteration is a riotous comedy that pretty much keeps fans’ memories of the original show intact.

Hill and Tatum play Officers Schmidt and Jenko, respectively, former schoolmates who later become buddies and fellow cops. Reassigned to a different h.q.--an old church situated at a familiar address--Schmidt, Jenko, and a few other cops are sent to infiltrate different high schools by Captain Dickson (rapper Ice Cube). They’re there mainly because they’re “Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus-looking mother-f—kers!”

Schmidt and Jenko pose as brothers, specifically assigned to track pushers and suppliers of a new and deadly drug. Formerly unpopular, Schmidt worries about fitting in. But to the partners’ surprise, school’s totally different this time. Jenko doesn’t fit with the popular kids anymore; they’re rich, artistic, environmentally conscious kids led by the charismatic drug-dealer Eric (Dave Franco).

Directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller (“How I Met Your Mother”) and written by Michael Bacall (“Scott Pilgrim”), “21 Jump Street” smartly parodies worn-out but enduring school-centric scenarios, effortlessly subduing with caustic and crude humor. The odd couple rapport is inspired and the good cop-bad cop dynamic is reversed, giving both characters plenty of situations to bumble in. And while it’s not exactly the “Jump Street” that viewers may remember, there are unforgettable cameos that should make them happy. 

Also, Tatum, who sometimes comes off as iffy in more serious roles, fits well. Hill is effective, as expected, the role and some situations nicely reminiscent of his “Superbad” character and some of its more poignant parts.

This re-imagining is crammed with inanities and is obsessed with penis and drug jokes, but they’re consistently hilarious, and ultimately, the TV concept is properly and memorably reinvented.

21 Jump Street” will have sneak previews on April 23 and 24 in Metro Manila, and will open on May 9. 

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