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First look at Jonah Hill & Channing Tatum in 21 Jump Street

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Huge “21 Jump Street” fan here. There, I just outed myself. But I’m sure there’s plenty of other Dustin Nguyen fans out there, right!?
When Sony announced the film version I was – particularly so because of young funnyman Jonah Hill’s involvement – as skeptical as I was intrigued. Would the film be an out-and-out spoof a’la Betty Thomas’ “Brady Bunch Movie”? Or would it be nipple-wart serious offering like TV shows cum films “S.W.A.T”, “The Fugitive” or “Mission : Impossible”? In many ways, they can’t make that movie – not with “21 Jump Street”, if only because they’d be robbing themselves of some severely sensational comedic opportunities. Instead, what we’re going to get isn’t unlike Joe Carnahan’s “A-Team” movie – a very witty, action-packed movie that should make for an entertaining popcorner with punch.

The first picture of Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum in the movie has surfaced in EW . Below the picture I’ve included some script spoilers for the film – read at your own peril.


* SPOILER ALERT*

Do not read on if you don’t want to know anything about the film

The first draft of “21 Jump Street” by Josh Applebaum and Michael Bacall was pretty loyal to the original series – right down to the character names.
A few drafts later, and the film that’s going before-the-cameras is appreciably different. While before it might have read like a ‘remake’ of the original show, now – particularly with Depp cameoing – it could almost pass for a sequel.

Firstly, I really like the story they’ve come up with for this film – it’s a great piece; loads of humour with some great action scenes written into it. Secondly, I can really picture Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill in there – an odd but effective duo.

I remember Hill comparing it to the original “Bad Boys” and yeah, it’s definitely got a similar tone, but there’s a few films that come to mind – largely, those ‘undercover in High School comedies’ like “Hiding Out” (remember it? Jon Cryer?) and “Never Been Kissed” (Where Drew Barrymore was the twenty-something reporter pretending to be a teenager). Jonah Hill, also producing, is obviously making the kind of film he enjoyed watching growing up because it really does read like an ’80s film – in a good way.

Is it the original series at all? There’s nods, yeah, but mostly, no – it’s it’s own beast. For a start, the film mostly fixes on only two undercover cops as opposed to the group that featured in the ‘80s series – though the group and captain do appear– and, not surprisingly, it’s definitely more risque and comedic than the Cannell show.

Glad they’re not just ‘redoing’ the show though, nobody wants to see a friggin’ Xerox of something that came out perfectly first time around. Still, as I said, there’s a Johnny Depp cameo in there somewhere… apparently. Can’t quite work out where it’d be. (As for rumours that Richard ‘Booker’ Grieco would play ‘The Captain’ in the film? Not so, the guy in charge is a chap named CAPTAIN DICKSON).

So what’s the story?

Couple of older cops, blessed with the young gene, go undercover in highschool. To keep up the facade, they’re both back living at home.
Schmidt (Hill) and partner Zenko (Tatum) take on the guise of two teenage brothers new at Sagan High School.
They’re there to put a stop to a drug ring, which by all indications is run by ‘coolest guy in the school’ Eric.
Naturally, both Schmidt and Zenko are forced to befriend Eric, ultimately being welcomed into his gang, but Schmidt also decides to start spending time with the suspect’s squeeze Molly.
Naturally, Doug develops feelings for the girl and ultimately risks his cover in an attempt to guard her from the impending drug bust at Prom.

Dot Points about “21 Jump Street”

• In the first draft of the script the characters retained the same names as their TV counterparts – Tommy Hanson, Doug Penhall etc. While some still keep their Christian names, their surnames have been changed.

• Cops SCHMIDT and JENKO are posing as students/brothers DOUG and BRAD MCQUAID at SAGAN HIGH SCHOOL. They’re there to nab a drug dealer, ERIC MOLSON– the coolest guy in school.

• SCHMIDT enrolls in drama club in an effort to suss out a scoop. Much of the humor arises from the so-called musically gifted Schmidt’s inability to hold a tune (he ‘squeaks’when he sings); still, he promises his fellow students that he’s merely saving his voice for “the actual performance”)

• Not surprisingly, Tatum’s JENKO is the cooler of the undercover cop duo – as evidenced by the ‘moustache tattoo on his finger’. JENKO also befriends a classmate, ZACK, who is somewhat of a hacker but doesn’t consort with ERIC and his gang; in fact, ZACK gets a hard time from ERIC.

• Some amusing scenes with SCHMIDT’S ‘proud, pot-smoking’ parents who think their son looks “so cute” in his high school get-up. In order to keep up the façade, SCHMIDT has had to move back home – suddenly he’s a teenager all over again in more ways than one.

• SCHMIDT and JENKO get “in” with Eric and his crew. As part of the gang, they’re required to learn how to shoot (not that they don’t already know how to) in case some of those “cops in flamboyant costumes” start following Eric’s Mercedes again.

• Lots of laughs as Schmidt, secretly older than his classmates, tries to fit in. He uses words like “Absosmurfly” and even – shock! – calls people on the phone (Molly, shocked to receive a phone call, asks Schmidt why he isn’t texting. “Are you like 100!?”, she asks).

• As is usually the way in these films, best friends and partners SCHMIDT and JENKO have a bust-up in the third act.

• Some of the ‘drama’ takes place at the school prom. It’s there that Schmidt discovers Molly too is “on that shit”. SCHMIDT tries to get her out of there before the bust goes down.

And yes, there will be a new version of the ‘classic’ “21 Jump Street” theme.

Bottom Line : I love it. It’s atop of my must see list for 2012 – Holly Robinson or no Holly Robinson.

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About Caffeinated Clint

The writer/publicist/producer who wears the editor hat on Moviehole. Favorite films include "Say Anything...", "The Hunt for Red October", "Jerry Maguire", "Almost Famous", "Die Hard", "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo", "Young Guns", "American Psycho", "Back to the Future" and the "Star Wars" series.
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