’21 Jump Street’ has its own place in reimagining the buddy cop genre. Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the film is an eccentric jolly-ride that impeccably combines a cop story within an action–comedy setting. The film follows two police officers, Morton Schmidt and Greg Jenko, who are assigned to infiltrate Sagan High School to investigate the spread of a synthetic drug called HFS. The duo enrolls in the high school as students and begins their investigation, only to get immersed in the high school life, compromising on their investigation.
With brilliant performances by Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, ’21 Jump Street’ is one of the top-grossing high school films of all time. The success of the film resulted in multiple sequels and expanded the scope of the film to remodel the crime and comedy fusion. The success of the film also initiated curiosity over the origin of the film, with fans wondering whether Schmidt and Jenko are based on real cops who hunted down a high school mafia in prom costumes. Well, let’s move on to the reality behind ’21 Jump Street!’
Is 21 Jump Street Based on a True Story?
’21 Jump Street’ is reportedly inspired by a true story. The film is a remake of the eponymous police procedural TV show that ran from 1987 to 1991. Created by Patrick Hasburgh and Stephen J. Cannell, the show was reportedly based on a real-life undercover unit in Los Angeles, California. Even though the film’s narrative stands on its own, the genesis of the film is the respective TV show and the undercover cops who operated in LA for decades. Still, the directors and writers of the film distanced it from the real events and even from the original show’s storylines to create a full-fledged action-comedy.
Jonah Hill (Schmidt), who is also the co-writer of the film, conceived the film more as a “Bad Boys-meets-John Hughes” film than as a remake of the eponymous TV show. For Hill, ’21 Jump Street’ was an opportunity to relive the high school experience in its own laughable way, contrary to the critical manner in which the original show depicted the high school setting. Hill has expressed his admiration towards the show but went on to co-write the screenplay that relates with the high-school dramas of John Hughes, distancing the film from the show’s motives and execution.
In another interview, co-director Chris Miller talked about the process of adaptation from the TV show to the film. Miller and Phil Lord approached the film as an R-rated action-comedy, deviating from the tone of the show. The director duo wanted to pay homage to the show’s spirit by including varied and hidden details to make the film appealing to the fans of the original series. Miller also stressed upon the film having an identity of its own rather than being just a recreation of something that happened 30 years ago.
In past and present-day investigations, there have been several instances of undercover cops infiltrating high schools to investigate drug abuse among teenagers. In fact, coincidentally, around the film’s release in early 2012, police officer Alex Salinas busted a high school drug ring after going undercover as a student of Exeter Union High School for about 8 months. Thus, ’21 Jump Street’ is inspired by the core of such investigations, but in its complete form, it is far from what reality is. What the film offers is not the truth but a high-spirited cop comedy that ticks all the boxes of the extravaganza of fiction.
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