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:

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