21 Jump Street (The Movie): First Impressions

21 Jump Street – the late 1980’s crime-drama TV show masterfully commented on many relevant issues of its era, including AIDS, hate crimes, child abuse, etc. It allowed itself to be empathetic and sympathetic with those who were in troubled situations, by their own doing or by happenstance. The show was inherently philosophical, and it always made a point to tell both sides of a story. It featured a strong African-American female character, and the writing was smart and provoking, even in its cheesy 80’s glory. Take the “Mean Streets and Pastel Houses” episode, for example. It details two opposing gangs of punk kids, Friendly Neighbors and KKK, (Klean Kut Kids) and one specific remember of KKK, who doesn’t quite fit in because he does well in school. At the beginning of the episode, there is a little drag race between the two gangs. The “smart punk” is driving the car when a Friendly Neighbor tries to jump from his car into their car. Needless to say the FN falls, becomes severely injured, and later dies. There is a very touching scene between Hanson and the “smart punk” at the end of the episode. He tells Hanson what he did, and he feels for the kid even though he made one very dumb mistake. He was the one with the brightest future and the audience is lead to like him in this way, because he is the rebel within the rebels. 21 Jump Street was entertainment with a message, with a theme, and with morals.

This is the 21 Jump Street I know and love.

The “new” 21 Jump street, staring Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, is an utter mockery of its predecessor; a cheap excuse to use the 21 Jump Street name to give a purpose behind creating another film (an “adaptation”) with worn out jokes and unnecessary glorification of drug and alcohol use in high school. For what 21 Jump Street stood for from its inception to eventual end and permanent archiving in the virtual world, this new version completely cheapens its vision and has no clear theme. It uses the title for the sole purpose of marketing, to make the film “worth” seeing. The original 21 Jump Street undercover officers wouldn’t be caught dead running the halls of their school, high as kites on some unknown drug. They wouldn’t be doing keg stands with underage teens. (Leave the underage drinking to the 18-year-old college students who get their booze from 21-year-olds. Unless high school drinking can be covered in a tasteful and thought-provoking manner, don’t even bother writing about it.) 21 Jump Street was about blending in, not having an excuse to defenestrate responsibility.

Majority of the comments share my sentiments. Many of these types of movies that have come out in the last 6 or 7 years have lost a sense of morals and/or a clear theme. It appears, from the trailer, that this 21 Jump Street version has a semblance of a plot – up to a point – and a very strange story arch structure in which the two main character are thrust into two different worlds. Their established world, or ordinary world, is the Police Academy, where Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum’s characters only become friends for a mutual gain – good grades and becoming less of a dweeb, respectfully. They graduate, excelling (or not) as bicycle cops, until they are given the opportunity to become undercover high school agents. Here, they are given the task of discovering the main supplier of a mystery drug at a local high school, and from then on they become their own plot devices by making poor decisions from which they must dig themselves out of. They are their own obstacles; a far cry from the original series, which showcased the undercover agents’ cunning abilities, such as blending in without crossing any boundaries…and where are the smart female characters?! If they exist in the film itself, would it not be marketable to have them in the trailer? The new 21 Jump Street is, as one of my fellow gaming friends puts it, like a police academy’s crack baby. Jump Street agents are supposed to be cracking down on the crack, not smoking it. They channeled way too much of the McQuaid brothers for this new film.

Why has mediocrity become the “popular kid”?

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