Assume Nothing

I did not want to see “21 Jump Street.”

The screening was at the end of a long day in the middle of an even longer week, but I had to see it because I was going to be interviewing its stars, Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. But I did not, I repeat, Want. To. Go. I wasn’t a fan of the TV series, and the whole movie just looked, well, bad.

But like a scary dive bar that turns out to have the best burger on the planet, “21 Jump Street” was one of the funniest, smartest films I’ve seen in a long time.

It’s not really a remake of the ’80s cop drama — instead, it’s a blended drink made of ’80s teen films, a healthy slug of snark and a winking knowledge that the premise of the movie is pretty silly. It works in the way “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” worked (though it’s not THAT funny): The film isn’t about what it appears to be about.

Just as “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” wasn’t really about sex but about the emotional risk that comes with human relationships, “21 Jump Street” is about how the rules of high school can be absolutely impenetrable — particularly once you’ve left high school.

I try not to make up my mind about movies before I’ve seen them, and the pleasant surprise that was “21 Jump Street” is the reason why.

Kristen Page-Kirby covers film for The Washington Post Express.
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Vicky Hallett | March 16, 2012