21 JUMP STREET is this generation's Starsky & Hutch! I know that sounds like hyperbole, but it's true! 21 Jump Street is this generation's answer to the slightly previous generation's 2004 remake of the forgettable cop show from the '70s! "You peckernecks wouldn't know a contemporary riff on a cheesy cop show if it crawled up your iPad while you were tweetin'," we used to tell our slightly younger siblings back in 2009. "In my day, we had Owen Wilson! And Snoop Dogg!" WELL NO LONGER! IT'S OFFICIAL! THIS GENERATION HAS TAKEN WHAT WAS OURS, WHICH WE TOOK FROM OUR PARENTS, AND MADE IT THEIR OWN! AGAIN!
Thing is, even while pop culture is devouring its own tail, it manages to shit out an occasional gem. 21 Jump Street is that gem—a far, far more entertaining film than it has any business being. Neither a gritty reimagining™ nor a full-on parody of the source, it's mostly just a silly take on reliving high school that manages both laughs and, occasionally, a disturbing amount of earnestness.
Jonah Hill plays nerdy, former Eminem wannabe Schmitty, who befriends Jenko (Channing Tatum), the meathead who used to bust his balls in high school, at police academy. Everything from then until Ice Cube sends them back to high school on assignment happens so fast that it almost feels longer in the trailer.
Undercover at school, C-Tates lays out his keys to popularity: (1) Don't care about anything. (2) If you see someone else caring, make fun of him. (3) Make an example out of the first guy who messes with you. But quickly he finds that the paradigm has switched, and now all the popular kids are faux sensitive and socially conscious. He punches out the first guy who hassles him, who falls to the ground screaming, "You hit me because I'm gay??" "What? I didn't know you were gay!" Tatum says, but soon he's in front of the vice principal for a hate crime. "You punched a little gay black kid in the face?" the vice principal asks, incredulous. It should go without saying, but that small twist is more insightful than anything Stephen Cannell wrote his entire career.