Depp's dated drama becomes a black buddy comedy
The ’80s TV show that made Johnny Depp famous may not be an obvious choice for a big screen follow-up, but casting Channing Tatum opposite Jonah Hill is a no-brainer. Tatum is Jenko, a jock-turned-cop who reluctantly teams up with his high school contemporary, brainy misfit Schmidt (Hill). Together, they might just last it out in the LAPD - that’s if they can stop bungling arrests.
One such blunder lands them at 21 Jump Street, the resurrected ’80s programme that places puppy-faced cops undercover in high school. Posing as brothers, Jenko and Schmidt return to the halls. But it turns out times have changed. To Jenko’s horror, it’s now cool to be eco-friendly and wear your backpack with both straps. Added to that, the high school pecking order puts Schmidt in with the popular kids and jock Jenko with the nerds.
This twist ushers in some witty observations of that constantly evolving beast: the American teenager. Meanwhile, Hill is reliably amusing as the geek in awe of girls and laid-back Tatum builds on the comic chops he showed in The Dilemma. Naturally, the pair end up doing everything their boss (Ice Cube) tells them not to, and while a drug-taking sequence is predictable, it’s also laugh-out-loud funny.
It’s a shame that 21 Jump Street falls down both on plot and action - the car chases are a real bore. Save a cameo from a certain A-lister, the third act is vastly inferior. But thanks to charming leads and a smattering of laughs, this is still worth a punt for fans of light buddy comedies.