Fast times at squaresville high

There’s some sur­pris­ing fun to be had in this mildly sub­ver­sive spin-off of a decades-old TV se­ries, writes Don­ald Clarke

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film Reviews -

NOW HERE’S some­thing you didn’t know you wanted. If it is re­mem­bered at all, 21 Jump Street, a cop show from the Rea­gan years, is known for giv­ing Johnny Depp an early break. Re­mak­ing it is rather like restag­ing the Swansea Play­ers 1986 Christ­mas Panto be­cause Cather­ine Zeta-jones played the fourth elf from the left.

Hold on a mo­ment. Against all the odds, the re­vamp turns out to be pretty good fun. Jonah Hill and Chan­ning Ta­tum form a sur­pris­ingly ef­fec­tive dou­ble act. The film is edited with a de­gree of re­straint. Yes, the script looks to have been writ­ten un­der the in­flu­ence of aro­matic smok­ing ma­te­ri­als. But it has a tone all its own: drunk enough to lower the in­hi­bi­tions; not so drunk that it be­comes un­in­tel­li­gi­ble.

We be­gin in 2005, as Sch­midt (Hill), a clumsy nerd, and Jenko (Ta­tum), a slow jock, fail to make their way to the high school prom. The for­mer is re­jected by the school’s prettiest girl, the lat­ter for­bid­den from at­tend­ing af­ter flunk­ing his ex­ams. Seven years later, the two men are fail­ing to find the po­lice force ex­cit­ing.

Fol­low­ing their dis­as­trous fail­ure to ar­rest a group of drug deal­ers, they are dragged be­fore their boss and in­structed to join a di­vi­sion in­ves­ti­gat­ing high school crime. They may well get to go to the prom, af­ter all. “All they do now is re­cy­cle shit from the past and ex­pect us not to no­tice,” the chief says. Do you get it?

Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who di­rected Cloudy With a Chance of Meat­balls, play some lively games with the tired high school con­ven­tions. Be­ing green is now cool. Bul­ly­ing kids is so last decade. In one of the most ab­surd jokes, rather than us­ing iphones, all the hip kids text on Sony Eric­s­son de­vices. Oh, hang. That’s be­cause this is a Sony film. Scratch that.

Some of the rou­tines are overex­tended. There are a few too many in­ter­weav­ing plot­lines. But there’s enough chem­istry be­tween the two leads to sug­gest that, if the box of­fice al­lows, we could en­dure a se­quel or two. It seems un­likely, how­ever, that Mr Depp him­self will re­turn to re­peat his (rea­son­ably jolly) cameo.

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