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Hill and Tatum talk '21 Jump Street'

By Eduardo Sayago
On March 12, 2012

Jonah Hill wants you to know that his new movie, "21 Jump Street" (out in theaters March 16) is not a remake of the 1980's cop drama that launched the career of Johnny Depp. "It wasn't about remaking a show," he said during a Leap Day interview. "Adapting a television show into a film is lazy by nature. I roll my eyes at that. It was more about this cool idea to relive this certain point in life."

"You could take the title of the show off the movie poster and no one would know this was based on the show," said co-star Channing Tatum.

In the movie Schmidt (Hill) and Jenko (Tatum) are two slacker cops who transfer to 21 Jump Street, an abandoned church, where they are under the wrath of a very angry black captain (Ice Cube). "Embrace your stereotype," the captain boasts, before accurately nailing Jenko as a dumb jock and Schimdt as a nerd who's good with money. Schmidt and Jenko are sent back to high school to bring down those who are pushing a new drug to the student body.

A second chance at high school? It's an idea that has been visited numerous times, from Drew Barrymore's undercover reporter in "Never Been Kissed" to Matthew Perry going back in time (as Zac Efron) in "17 Again." Like in those movies, the characters may be older but they aren't wiser.

"(The characters) think they have the answers but they don't," said Hill. When they enter the school, Jenko malfunctions and punches a kid, believing that it's (still?) cool to be a bad boy.

High school was radically different for both stars, who essentially switched roles in the movie. Tatum's Jenko is the outcast bonding with science wiz kids. Hill's Schimdt is hanging with the popular crowd, which includes the pusher (Dave Franco) of the drug and his sometimes-friend with benefits (Brie Larson). "My high school wasn't cliché, like the way they show it in movies," mentioned Tatum. "I was a jock but I was friends with smart kids. I played Dungeons and Dragon and video games. That was cool back in the day."

"I went to a hippie school," added Hill. "We didn't even have a football team. We had a class called ‘feelings', where we just talked about our feelings."

"21 Jump Street" is not a remake, but it's also not a straight-up comedy. "What if we could have Bad Boys and a John Hughes movie into one?" This combo works well. Co-written and co-produced by Hill, "Jump Street" is a mesh of hijinks action sequences and absurd and occasionally uncomfortable comedic moments. In one scene, Schmidt's cover is almost blown when a family friend spots him at the mall. He tries to explain to the irritating woman that he is not really Schmidt. This fails of course and he has to push her into a display of shoes, shouting how she tried to hurt him, and runs off.

The film has a great cast of comedy geniuses, from cameos from Nick Offerman (who delivers a great line about how Hollywood scrapes the barrel for remakes), Jake Johnson as an apathetic principal ("A kid just died from an overdose and we did absolutely nothing about it."), Ellie Kemper as a chemistry teacher who falls for Jenko, and Chris Parnell as a drama instructor ("I should been doing something to stop this."). The movie's MVPs are Rob Riggle, as a gym instructor with too much time on his hands, and Larson, as the accidental love interest to Schmidt. Some of the best moments and dialogue are between Hill and Larson, who has recently appeared in "Rampart" with Woody Harrelson and "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World."

Expectations are growing for the movie, which has just been given the greenlight for a sequel. "I just hope it's an hour and a half party," said Hill. "We wanted to make such a fun movie and I think we accomplished that."


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