New Release: ’21 Jump Street’ Plays It For Laughs

21 Jump Street (Sony) – Who knew Channing Tatum was actually, you know, funny? In this knowing update / spoof of the eighties TV series (itself a kind of updating of “The Mod Squad”), Channing Tatum is the thick-headed athlete and popular high school kid and Jonah Hill the nerdy brain who bond years later when they both enroll at the police academy and have each other’s back when they go back to high school in an undercover operation.

The twist here is that, in less than a decade, the whole high school paradigm of cool has shifted beyond the ability of Tatum’s one-time big man on campus to fathom; bullying is decidedly uncool, ignorance is not bliss, and even the drug dealers are ecologically aware. Which makes the overweight, socially maladroit Hill the new hip kid in this tag team search for campus the drug pipeline.

It’s a lot funnier than it has any right to be. Did I mention that Ice Cube plays their commanding officer, an angry black officer who embraces his own stereotype? Or that the directors are Phil Lord and Chris Miller, whose previous feature was the animated “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” and are just as free with sight gags and throwaway jokes in their live-action filmmaking? And keep an eye out for the stars of the original TV series (including one pretty boy by the name of Johnny Depp who went on to a pretty good big screen career) in knowing cameos.

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