The original “21 Jumpstreet” starring Johnny Depp aired as a television show before being remade into a movie in 2012. Photo from Pinterest.
For years, many have tried to bring the shows of their childhood back in movie form. They wanted to take something that was important to them during their formative years and bring it to a modern audience in a new and exciting way. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were children when the original “21 Jump Street” television series aired on Fox, but were able to make a successful film that pushed the franchise back into the mainstream; and they did it in a way that no one who watched the original show would have ever thought.
The original show, which aired from 1987 to 1991, is known for introducing Johnny Depp to the world and dealing with some of the biggest problems that faced the youth at the time, from drug abuse to the AIDS crisis. The leads, portrayed by Depp and Peter DeLuise, played police officers that went undercover in schools, since they looked very young and could easily pass for high school or college students. Some episodes dealt with things that can be even as hard-hitting as a student shooting his teacher (like in the episode “After School Special”). The show was also noteworthy for being about trying to keep the youth away from crime, with a very high moral ground that was often shown in shows and films from the 80s.
The film took a different direction. Lord and Miller did enjoy the show and put a lot of tributes to it in the film, including former cast members. However, it took a comedic approach that makes it resemble films like “Bad Boys.” While Depp could have easily passed as a high school student in the 80s, Lord and Miller went with two actors who no longer could: Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. This right here immediately sets the stage for a film that would often be a parody of the original show.
When undercover, they see that due to their age, they are no longer able to immediately fit in with the other students, with Tatum becoming an outcast while Hill becomes very popular. The film, like many of the episodes of the TV show, involves the cops going in to bust a drug ring that is operating under the nose of the law. Mixed with humor and nostalgia, the film works as both a loving tribute to the original show as well as a parody. The film had a sequel, “22 Jump Street,” which involved them going to college, which was also very well-received.
When it comes to the two different versions of “21 Jump Street,” they are two very different experiences. One is a show with a very staunch anti-crime agenda that fits well with the era of “Just Say No” and the War on Drugs. It is a very interesting look into some of the social problems and unrest that existed in the 80s that often get overlooked. The other is a film that takes these 80s tropes and dials it up to make a film that serves as both a parody and tribute to the original work. Both are entertaining in their own right and both worth checking out if you have not already.