21 Jump Street was dumb then, but it's enjoyably dumb now 

One Jump Ahead

One Jump Ahead

As expected, 21 Jump Street is another in a long line of cinematic TV adaptations that's an excuse for its stars to engage in high-speed, explosion-enhanced high jinks and R-rated banter. Basically, it's a fest of shits and giggles — and it's the first fun time I've had at the movies this year.

A svelte Jonah Hill and the always toned Channing Tatum are the young cops (and former teenage archenemies) who become the type of high school narcs Johnny Depp got famous playing on the '80s police drama. A breakneck opening sequence shows how the two went from being polar opposites in high school to buddies in police academy. They graduate in hopes of becoming Starsky and Hutch-caliber badasses, only to get stuck riding bikes and doing park duty. After they foul up an arrest (damn those Miranda rights!), they get transferred to a "canceled undercover program from the '80s," where they infiltrate a high school seeking the supplier of a dangerous, student-offing drug.

Once they arrive, they find high school isn't the temple of teen frustration they remember. For starters, the drug-dealing cool kids (led by Dave Franco, James' even more comedically game li'l bro) are eco-conscious overachievers. Just as the TV show forced audiences to accept that twentysomethings could still pass for teens, however, Hill and Tatum's grumpy young men blend into the student body, with Hill getting a second shot at popularity and Tatum actually getting an education.

Jump Street scores at being both playfully raunchy and reckless, with Hill and Tatum's overeager cops getting too wrapped up in reliving (or revising) their teenage years to do their jobs, even staging a party that amounts to a smorgasbord of statutory offenses. (Screenwriter Michael Bacall also helped create the out-of-control party vibe for the just-released Project X.) Under the supervision of Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord, who merge entertainingly ludicrous action sequences with expletive-filled ad-libs, Jump Street becomes the rare R-rated comedy you don't feel guilty about laughing through.

Hill, who came up with the story and also serves as co-executive producer, shows that even though he lost all that weight to get spry and physical for the role, he didn't lose his gift for extemporaneous profanity. The surprise, though, is that Tatum can dish it just as well. Anyone who saw him in last year's gawdawful The Dilemma knows Tatum has a knack for lunkhead comedy that he's been dying to showcase, and he appears all too grateful to act a damn fool here. (His cry of "Fuck you, Miles Davis!" as he obliterates a high school bandroom in a drug-fueled fit still gives me the giggles.)

I won't give away whether Depp and the old Jump Street team make any cameo appearances. Let's just say the movie goes out of its way to blow holes, both figurative and literal, in the show's memorably hoary self-importance. 21 Jump Street was a silly-ass show, and 21 Jump Street is a silly-ass movie — only intentionally so, and enjoyably.

Email arts@nashvillescene.com.

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