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Arts & Entertainment Presented by Santa Barbara Center for the Performing Arts

Cinema in Focus

Cinema in Focus: ‘21 Jump Street’

Remake of a popular TV series is a buddy-cop movie with more slap than slap-dash humor

By Hal Conklin and Denny Wayman |

1 Star — Shallow

If you were a fan of the original 1980s TV show 21 Jump Street starring Johnny Depp, you will be sorely disappointed in the updated 2012 film version, 21 Jump Street. Unlike the highly acclaimed 1980s police drama with a slick undercover teenage police officer, this knock-off is a slapstick comedy filled with adolescent sexual innuendos and pranks. It is more Laurel & Hardy than CSI Miami.

Billed as a pair of underachieving cops who are sent back to a local high school to blend in and bring down a drug ring, 21 Jump Street stars two bumbling neophyte officers named Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum). Their overly cynical boss is Captain Dickson (Ice Cube). Rather than being a serious cop story, this is a comedy more in the footprint of the old Police Academy movies. Every person is a bumbling caricature of a self-absorbed teenager who giggles at sexual references as if they were cool.

Jenko and Schmidt knew each other in high school and were complete opposites. Schmidt was the overweight geek who wished girls liked him but they treated him as if he were invisible. Jenko was the handsome “ladies man” who had the reputation of being the “coolest kid in the school.” To his credit, Schmidt channeled his frustrations into his academic studies and did well, while Jenko barely graduated.

Five years later, both Schmidt and Jenko end up in the same police academy class and the handsome Jenko has to depend on his previously scorned high school classmate to pass the police tests. What develops is a “bromance” that carries them through the rest of the story.

Unfortunately, the rest of the story is a cartoon version of a cop drama. Unable to function with any maturity in their new occupation, they are sent to be a part of a new experimental police group that uses young-looking cops to infiltrate a local high school that has a drug problem. While Johnny Depp may have looked like a teenager in the earlier TV series, these two characters look like they could easily be a decade older than their peers. You have to suspend disbelief to follow what comes next.

The story is predictable, with a lot of teenage sexual jokes, expletives inserted everywhere, and a general lack of moral or ethical modeling shown by any adult in any capacity. If this were a representation of a real high school, one would have to conclude that there is no one left on the planet with any integrity.

The only saving grace in this film, which is harder to find than a “needle in a haystack,” is that the lack of respect that Schmidt and Jenko had for each other in high school grew into a more caring and expressive love for one another in semi-adulthood. It was in their support for one another that maturity begins to enter the story.

21 Jump Street will appeal to a teenage viewer who is seeking comic relief. For anyone else seeking quality entertainment, look elsewhere.


» When directors make a parody of a serious show do you think they are ridiculing the original? Why do you answer as you do?

» The sexual innuendo of this film is degrading in its humor. What do you think this does to teenagers and their attitude toward sex? Is it harmless or does it have long-lasting effects?

» Do you believe police should put undercover police officers into a high school? Should the school officials allow this?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit

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