21 Jump Street, the 1980s TV series about fresh-faced young cops (including a young Johnny Depp) going undercover in high schools, gets a riotous big-screen reboot with this rude and raucous action comedy spoof, which turns the high-minded, message-laden original series on its head in order to poke fun at everything from Hollywood’s desperate recycling of the past to the tired conventions of buddy-cop movies.
Here the cop buddies are podgy nerd Jonah Hill (the film’s co-writer) and dumb jock Channing Tatum, formerly hostile high-school classmates turned police officer partners. Sent back to school, posing as pupils, to find the source of a lethal new drug, they are stunned to discover that the rules of cool have changed since they were students – where bullying alpha male athletes once ruled the roost, the top dogs now are a bunch of tree-hugging, gay-friendly hipsters led by Dave (brother of James) Franco’s Eric.
If this weren’t enough to take on board, the duo then bungle their undercover identities and are forced to swap the roles they’ve been assigned to play. So numskull Tatum has to hang out with the science geeks, while book-smart Hill must pretend to be the track star. When his flat-footed ineptitude gets mistaken for rebellion, he winds up with the theatre crowd, donning green tights to play the lead in a musical version of Peter Pan and setting his cap at Brie Larson’s pretty blonde. It’s a chance to redeem the failures of their school days, but they still have the case to crack.
The plot lurches all over the place and the gags range from lame to lewd, but directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (makers of the animated comedy Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs) keep the action barreling along and there are enough laugh-aloud moments to keep the viewer on board.
On general release from Friday 16th March.