“21 Jump Street” was a surprisingly successful blockbuster based on a 1980s sitcom of the same name. The plot centers around Jenko and Schmidt, two rookie cops starting out together on their first big mission. Since the first day of Academy training, Jenko and Schmidt have been best friends for practical purposes. Jenko is a massive, athletic man while Schmidt is a socially awkward nerd. The two form an alliance based on their complimentary skills and wind up as a successful duo upon graduation.
The real world comes calling soon after the film begins. Jenko and Schmidt are sent on their first undercover mission to break up a synthetic drug ring at their local high school. Expecting the hallowed halls to be ruled by airheaded jocks and shallow cheerleaders as it was when they were in school, the crime fighting pair is in for a big surprise. These days, high school social structure is determined by quirkiness, open-mindedness, and the ability to be different. Schmidt finds his awkward ways are actually more of an asset than a setback, while Jenko struggles to fit in. This topsy-turvy twist on modern high school is one of the reasons the film was so unexpectedly successful. Considering that “21 Jump Street” is a remake of a series from the 1980s, audiences were expecting antiquated stereotypes about modern high school life at best. What they got was a thoughtful look at just how much times have really changed in unexpected ways.
Another reason for the film’s success is the endearing relationship between the two characters. Jenko and Schmidt fulfill the stereotypes of jock and nerd without being one dimensional. They prove that you can be more than what people expect from you, which is exactly what “21 Jump Street” did at the box office. Expectations were low for the film that only had to pay homage to its eponymous television series to succeed in the eyes of its cult following. “21 Jump Street” exceeded those expectations and then some by delivering a truly thoughtful and modern take on a successful formula from the past.
Jenko, played by Channing Tatum, is a surprisingly lovable guy who is more relatable to the average person than meets the eye. He’s used to getting by on his good looks, and he is faced with the reality that if he were a high school student today, he would turn out much differently than he did. He’s forced to prove to people that he’s more than just a muscular body and a pretty face. In fact, he’s by far the film’s most substantive character, delivering his share of heartwarming moments and self-sacrifice.
Jonah Hill, known for playing lovable oafs, delivers a surprisingly deep role as Schmidt. Schmidt, always the weird one on the outside, gets to relive his high school experience in a much more positive way. Going back to school and fitting in with his new peers is a refreshing experience that boosts his confidence as well as his personal growth. Hill is known for his slapstick antics, and he doesn’t disappoint in “21 Jump Street.” The car chases are by far the funniest parts of the film and a major reason for its success. While viewers are expecting elaborate and improbable explosions to happen every time a vehicle is shot, they are met with the same disappointment as the film’s heroes. “21 Jump Street” stays true to the laws of physics and earns laughs by turning its nose up at such typical action movie tropes.
“21 Jump Street” breaks the fourth wall just enough to be amusing but not so much that it ruins the immersion experience. The new film takes all the elements that audiences loved about the old television show and pays respect to them while improving and expanding on the elements that made it imperfect. “21 Jump Street” fans actually heralded the film as more emotionally engaging and humorous than the original, which is quite possibly the biggest compliment that a remake of any kind can receive. The main reason for the success of “21 Jump Street” is its ability to capitalize on what works while making improvements at the same time.
Since “21 Jump Street” was such an unexpected success, it’s no surprise that there is a sequel in the works. Both Hill and Tatum are slated to return as the signature duo for the sequel, and directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller promise that the new film will begin where the last one ended. Schmidt and Jenko will be attending college and facing a whole new set of challenges and life lessons. While there is no official release date as of yet, fans of the remake will no doubt be ready to fill seats when the sequel premieres.