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21 Jump Street DVD Review

21 Jump Street (2012) movie poster 21 Jump Street

Theatrical Release: March 16, 2012 / Running Time: 111 Minutes / Rating: R

Directors: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller / Writers: Michael Bacall (story & screenplay), Jonah Hill (story), Patrick Hasburgh, Stephen J. Cannell (television series) / Songs List

Cast: Jonah Hill (Morton Schmidt/Doug McQuaid), Channing Tatum (Greg Jenko/Brad McQuaid), Brie Larson (Molly Tracey), Dave Franco (Eric Molson), Rob Riggle (Mr. Walters), DeRay Davis (Domingo), Ice Cube (Captain Dickson), Dax Flame (Zack), Chris Parnell (Mr. Gordon), Ellie Kemper (Ms. Griggs), Jake Johnson (Principal Dadier), Nick Offerman (Deputy Chief Hardy), Holly Robinson Peete (Officer Judy Hoffs), Johnny Pemberton (Delroy), Stanley Wong (Roman), Justin Hires (Juario), Brett Lapeyrouse (Amir), Lindsey Broad (Lisa), Caroline Aaron (Annie Schmidt), Joe Chrest (David Schmidt), Geraldine Singer (Phyllis), Dakota Johnson (Fugazy), Rye Rye (Jr. Jr.), Valerie Tian (Burns), Jaren Mitchell (Sanders), Johnny Simmons (Billiam Willingham), Keith Kurtz (DJ Ay Papi), Randal Reeder (Karl), Spencer Boldman (French Samuels), Andrea Frankle (Cinnamon) / Uncredited: Peter DeLuise (Officer Doug Penhall), Johnny Depp (Officer Tom Hanson)

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In recent years, there have been three ways for television series to become films. Popular current or freshly-retired ones ("Sex and the City", "Hannah Montana", "Firefly") have gotten feature film treatment with ambitions elevated and personnel intact. Meanwhile, older shows have either be sent up (Land of the Lost, The Brady Bunch Movie) or simply updated (The A-Team, Mission: Impossible, Miami Vice, etc.) to meet moviegoer tastes.

A "21 Jump Street" movie obviously arrived much too late to pick up where the show left off, but it could have gone either other way, a kind of meta comedy or a straight filming with blockbuster aspirations. Running from 1987 to 1991, the hour-long police drama,
part of Fox's initial foray into network television, remained notable as the career launchpad of mega movie star Johnny Depp. But it was a product of its time, prone to aging and a far cry from today's acclaimed cable dramas. As a 7.1 IMDb average user rating score indicates, enough people have fond memories of the series' 103-episode run. Still, it is more ripe for nostalgic ridicule on VH1 than for a respectful screening and panel discussion at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

That Jonah Hill claimed top billing and a story credit hinted that this 21 Jump Street would take a comedic approach, even if Hill found himself an unlikely Academy Award nominee for the behind-the-scenes baseball drama Moneyball shortly before release. Hill's co-writer Michael Bacall, a former child actor whose screenplay credits include Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and Project X, also indicated light-hearted treatment. As did the hiring of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs team Phil Lord and Christopher Miller to make their live-action directorial debut.

Despite those expectations, this 21 Jump Street is decidedly an action comedy, a movie fueled by jokes but absolutely expecting you to take its plot seriously.

Seven years after graduating high school, Greg Jenko (Channing Tatum) and Morton Schmidt (Jonah Hill) re-enroll as part of an undercover police program.

The film opens in 2005, when Eminem-styled nerd Morton Schmidt (Hill) and long-haired jock Greg Jenko (Channing Tatum) are near the end of twelfth grade. A brief sequence quickly conveys the high school experience for the two classmates at opposite ends of the social spectrum. Each is deprived of a chance to go to prom, Schmidt from a humiliating rejection and Jenko from barely graduation-worthy grades. The two form an unlikely friendship and partnership as police officers, each helping the other to compensate for what is lacked in brains or brawn. Patrolling public parks on bikes, their police work isn't what they expected. When they make an actual drug bust, though, as sloppy, haphazard, and ultimately unprosecutable as it may be, Schmidt and Jenko get transferred to a special undercover narcotics unit, stationed in a run-down Korean church at the titular address.

Selected for their youthful appearances and supervised by the profane and short-tempered Captain Dickson (Ice Cube), Schmidt and Jenko are to infiltrate a local high school where a deadly new synthetic drug is making the rounds. Posing as ordinary transfer students, their job is to secretly track the drug from users to dealers to suppliers to build a case. Being the dummies they are, Schmidt and Jenko get their assigned personalities mixed up, leaving the insecure Schmidt to be drama star Doug McQuaid and the hunky Jenko to play the role of his brother, chemistry nerd Brad.

The reversed roles gives the two young police officers a taste of the other's high school experience, with Schmidt thriving socially and even picking up a love interest (Brie Larson) and Jenko having to get comfortable with science geekdom. The undercover pair struggles to blend in, discovering that the cliques of seven years ago have evolved. At Sagan High School, the cool kids like yearbook editor Eric (Dave Franco) are tolerant and environmentally conscious. That doesn't mean they're not also mixed up in drugs, specifically the one Jump Street's investigation is targeting: HFS (an abbreviation I hope is edited to "Hot Fudge Sundae" for network TV broadcast).

Ice Cube plays the angry, colorful Captain Dickson, the guys' supervisor at 21 Jump Street. Given a high school do-over, this time, Schmidt is able to attract some interest from the opposite sex, at least from theatre girl Molly (Brie Larson).

The multiple genre design allows 21 Jump Street to be both high school comedy and police drama, naturally leaning more heavily on the former. The two stars are both asked to be funny, a task the shorter, chubbier Hill is much more familiar with than Tatum, whose signature type has been "affable lughead." The film does not have the best success in the laughs department, with many of its wacky scenarios and forced references falling flat. But Hill and Tatum still have enough of that winning mismatched underdog chemistry that has carried many a buddy comedy. The film's tone is amusing enough for it to not live or die by its drug ring plot, which improbably sets up a prolonged prom night climax.

The film shows affection for the television series in character names, an episode excerpt on a television screen, an end credits remix of the theme song, and in-character cameos by three original cast members,
Holly Robinson Peete, Peter DeLuise, and -- spoiler alert worth knowing ahead of time -- Johnny Depp himself, whose undercover cop drama Donnie Brasco is also an inspiration of sorts.

A project that had a good deal of potential to just completely miss with both critics and audiences, 21 Jump Street nonetheless became one of the biggest hits of the slow period between Hollywood's holiday and summer seasons. The film won hearty approval in overwhelmingly positive reviews and the general public echoed their appreciation to the tune of a robust $138 million domestic box office, a take in the same league as other successful buddy cop comedies, like Bad Boys II and most installments of the Rush Hour and Lethal Weapon series. A sequel, teased in the film's closing, was announced on opening day.

21 Jump Street hit home video today and we cover its DVD edition here.

21 Jump Street DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com DVD Details

2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French, Descriptive Video Service)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: June 26, 2012
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $30.99
Blue Keepcase
Also available on Blu-ray ($35.99 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

21 Jump Street looks fine, but not quite great by DVD standards. The 2.40:1 picture is both dark and pale, while the transfer obviously lacks the detail and sharpness of high definition. The mostly fine Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is expectedly marked by peaks and valleys, although the former are provided less by action and more by prominent needle drops from the likes of Eminem, N.W.A., and LMFAO.

The high school's young principal (The New Girl's Jake Johnson) is fleshed out some in an extended scene. Jonah Hill gets a Slim Shady dye job to make fun of the one he really sported in high school. The officers' film-opening appearances as 2005 high school seniors feature on the DVD main menu montage.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

As has become the norm in the past few years, 21 Jump Street's DVD gets just a handful of bonus features, going without a number of the Blu-ray's extras.

The DVD's supplements begin with an audio commentary by stars Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum and directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller.
Theirs is a lively track, full of production info and observations. Among the more interesting topics: how Whitney Houston's death required a last-minute ADR change, scenes that were performed drunk, Ice Cube's contributions to the sanitized airplane version, and jokes obscured by audience laughter.

Four deleted scenes (8:33) mostly qualify as extended ones. Appearances by Jake Johnson and Chris Parnell as the school's staff members are elongated, as is Jenko's drug-fueled disruption of band rehearsal. The last scene is a tender bedtime discussion in which the partners trying to rationalize statutory rape as part of their mission. No doubt the Blu-ray holds these and many more.

"Back to School" (7:44) is a fairly standard making-of featurette that provides interviews and behind-the-scenes footage. The focus, as the title implies, is on returning to high school and finding things have changed.

Finally, not on the disc but part of the package, access to a complimentary UltraViolet stream is offered, a feature that has largely succeeded digital copy and quickly become a standard, to detractors' dismay.

Included on the Blu-ray but not the DVD: a gag reel, something called Cube-O-Rama (which I'd guess is Ice Cube improvisations), and the featurettes "Not So Slim Shady", "Brothers in Arms", "Johnny Depp On Set", "The Rob Riggle Show", and "Peter Pan on the Freeway." It is worth noting that this DVD is well under capacity and undoubtedly could have easily included some of that exclusive content.

The disc opens with a promo for UltraViolet and trailers for Safety Not Guaranteed, Lockout, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, and That's My Boy. The Previews menu offers access to all but the first and adds trailers for Underworld: Awakening and The Raid: Redemption.

The DVD's main menu creatively places character stills in animated backdrops, employing clips, music, and graffiti-style cursors.

The standard black keepcase holds two inserts: one, directions and your unique code for accessing the UltraViolet stream. The other promotes Sony comedy Blu-rays, supplies a Sony Movie Rewards code, and, quite randomly, gives you a short-lived coupon for $1 off muscle mass powder, perhaps for those inspired by Jonah Hill's fleeting weight loss.

For the "McQuaid Brothers" (Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum), getting dressed for prom includes concealed weapons and bulletproof vests.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

21 Jump Street isn't as much fun as its acclaim and box office success suggest, but it is still better than you'd expect of a film version of a silly 1980s Fox TV show. The movie doesn't bring many new ideas to the table, but action comedy is a genre fruitful enough to produce entertaining results in a high school setting.

If you liked the movie enough to expect regular revisitation, you are probably better off picking up the more loaded and presumably much more presentable Blu-ray for a few dollars more. On the other hand, this is an adequate DVD for an adequate film, the kind that is more tempting as a $6 impulse blind buy than as a must-own street date purchase.

Buy 21 Jump Street now from Amazon.com: DVD / Blu-ray / Instant Video

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New: Tosh.0: Hoodies Spider-Man | '80s Television: The A-Team | R-Rated School Comedy: Bad Teacher
Written by Michael Bacall: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World | Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller: Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

21 Jump Street Songs List: Eminem - "The Real Slim Shady", The Clash - "Police and Thieves", The Knox - "You Can't Lose", Dirt Nasty - "Boombox", Tim Myers and Joy Williams - "You Are the Best", "I've Gotta Crow", "Fifteen Miles on the Eerie Canal", Ty Segall - "Caesar", Foster the People - "Helena Beat", Atlanta Rhythm Section - "So Into You", LMFAO featuring Lauren Bennett & Goonrock - "Party Rock Anthem", N.W.A. - "Straight Outta Compton", Elon - "Every Time I See Your Face", Terraplane Sun - "Get Me Golden", Zee Avi - "Swell Window", Murs - "Lookin' Fly", Mr. Little Jeans - "Rescue Song (Naked & Famous Remix)", Vitamin C - "Graduation (Friends Forever)", Ini Kamoze - "Call the Police", Rye Rye and Esthero - "21 Jump Street (Theme from the Motion Picture)", Wallpaper. - "21 Jump Street"

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Reviewed June 26, 2012.



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