A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that 21 Jump Street is an often crude (but irreverently funny) action/buddy comedy based on the popular '80s TV series that launched Johnny Depp's career. This version stars popular actors Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill as bumbling cops who attempt to redeem themselves by going undercover to bust a high school drug ring. The storyline leads to plenty of drug content (there's also pot smoking and some underage drinking), and you can also expect lots of strong language (including "f--k," "s--t," and more), crude references, and sexual innuendoes.
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What's the story?
Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) weren't friends in high school. Schmidt was sensitive and smart and not particularly sporty; Jenko was the opposite. But the police academy they both attended is the great equalizer, and they each learn from the other's strengths ... even though they're not particularly good at their jobs (Jenko can't even remember the Miranda rights). So off to 21 Jump Street they go to prove they have what it takes by busting a major drug ring. The job entails pretending to be in high school again, and Schmidt's worried that he'll be uncool once again -- and, worse, forgotten. But the world has changed a whole lot, and so have the "cool kids." Turns out that the ones who used to be on the sidelines are ruling high school in more ways than one.
Is it any good?
This is how you remake a franchise. Rather than borrowing heavily from its '80s TV predecessor or mining the same, now-tired jokes as some other movies descended from previously known projects, 21 JUMP STREET is solidly in the present, even as it flashes back to the past. Its material is modern, its jokes whip-smart, and, as a result, it's a delight (as long as you're "mature" enough to handle the crude stuff, of course).
21 Jump Street's wit comes from the way that it pokes fun at high school and how its sociological makeup -- who's popular, who's not, what are kids these days up to? -- has changed over the years. The film actually twists some stereotypes on their heads. (The troubled kids are actually environmentalists and academically serious.) The drug plot is almost incidental, but not so incidental that it's a wash. It still propels the film forward and provides a great backdrop for the central theme to unfold: the friendship shared by the two leads. And Hill and Tatum have great chemistry, a main requirement of buddy cop movies. Both are in fine form. Who else is in fine form? Johnny Depp, who graciously makes a cameo that's hilarious and cheeky and satisfying. See this movie, stat.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how 21 Jump Street portrays high school. Is it realistic? Is it meant to be? Teens: How does this school compare to yours?
Parents, talk to your kids about social struggles and drug use in high school. Does this film depict either/both accurately? What are the consequences of substance use/abuse in real life?
How does the movie compare to the original 21 Jump Street TV show? If you were a fan of the series, is the movie what you expected?
- In theaters: March 16, 2012
- On DVD or streaming: June 26, 2012
- Cast: Brie Larson, Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill
- Directors: Chris Miller, Phil Lord
- Studio: Columbia Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Friendship, High School
- Run time: 110 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: crude and sexual content, pervasive language, drug material, teen drinking and some violence
- Last updated: August 20, 2020
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