21 Jump Street: Hey, It’s Better Than Dragnet!

by Ethan Alter March 16, 2012 6:00 am
<i>21 Jump Street</i>: Hey, It’s Better Than <i>Dragnet</I>!

Stop me if you've heard this one already: roughly two decades after a popular cop series has gone off the air, Hollywood gets the bright idea to remake it as a big-screen vehicle for two young, likeable stars (one of whom also writes the screenplay), which puts a decidedly comic spin on what used to be a straightforward procedural. At the same time, they also make sure to include a number of shout-outs to the source material in the form of visual gags, recycled sets and cameos from some of the stars of the original show. No, I'm not talking about the new version of that '80s chestnut 21 Jump Street that's arriving in theaters today, starring the unlikely duo of Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. I'm referring to Dragnet, the 1987 Dan Aykroyd/Tom Hanks update of Jack Webb's iconic show, which aired from 1951-1959 and again from 1967-1970. (There were two later revivals as well, but neither of those starred Webb.) It's somehow fortuitous that Dragnet is celebrating its 25th anniversary the same year that 21 Jump Street arrives in theaters, because the two movies really do have a lot in common, except for one key thing... Jump Street is actually really funny. So why did this one succeed where its predecessor failed? We examine the evidence:

Rob Riggle Jumps Aboard 21 Jump Street

by Ethan Alter March 13, 2012 12:12 pm
Rob Riggle Jumps Aboard <i>21 Jump Street</i>

In an alternate universe, Rob Riggle may have become a pilot in the U.S. Marine Corps. In this version of Earth though, the Kentucky-born Riggle enlisted with the Marines in 1990 only to leave the corps not long after to pursue a career in comedy (he's still a Lieutenant Colonel in the Reserve). It took about a decade, but that career move has paid off. A tour of duty with New York's Upright Citizens Brigade led to guest spots on shows like The Office followed by a high-profile stint as a Daily Show correspondent. These days, Riggle is an established scene-stealer on film and television, popping up in everything from Tina Fey's 30 Rock to Tom Hanks's Larry Crowne. This weekend, Riggle has a small, but crucial turn in 21 Jump Street, playing a kooky gym teacher named Mr. Walters, who crosses paths with two undercover cops-turned-high school students (Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum) investigating a student-run drug ring. Riggle spoke to us about impersonating a gym teacher, his sketch comedy background and why going to UCB was like attending graduate school.

Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum Let the Laughs (and Bullets) Fly in <i>21 Jump Street</i>

It's understandable that the thought of a 21 Jump Street movie sounds like the height of Hollywood creative bankruptcy. But stars Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum made it their mission to produce a Jump Street film that's not just a wan carbon copy of the original '80s cop series that's best known for launching the careers of Johnny Depp and... um, Richard Grieco. Audiences will find out for themselves on Friday whether they succeeded in that endeavor. Prior to the film's release, Hill and Tatum turned up at a New York press conference (clad in their cop uniforms from the movie no less) and talked about the origins of the project, their on-screen chemistry and what other '80s series they'd like to remake.

Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller Take a Stroll Down <i>Jump Street</i>

Helming a big-screen version of an old TV series may not seem like the most auspicious beginning to a live-action filmmaking career, but Phil Lord and Chris Miller were determined to make a 21 Jump Street movie that was more than a pale imitation of the campy '80s cop series. They've had some success adapting unlikely source material before; their previous movie was the 2009 animated feature Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, a clever take on the classic children's story that wasn't afraid to depart from the text when it served the film. And while 21 Jump Street has some subtle -- and not so subtle -- homages to the source material, it definitely stands apart as its own (very funny) movie. Lord and Miller spoke with us about their transition from animation to live action filmmaking, why 21 Jump Street had to be R-rated and what jokes eagle-eyed viewers should look for in the background.

I Want My DVD: Tuesday, June 26, 2012

by Ethan Alter June 26, 2012 6:00 am
I Want My DVD: Tuesday, June 26, 2012

"Aw, c'mon Channing -- a big-screen version of Cop Rock sounds like a great idea!"

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