The movie version of the '80s TV show turns the same basic conceit into a hilarious comedy, says PEOPLE's critic

By Alynda Wheat
March 15, 2012 10:45 AM

Either you’re old, like me, and were aghast at the idea of someone defiling your beloved Jump Street. Or you’re young (i.e., born after the 87 launch of the TV series that made Johnny Depp a star) and your reaction was closer to, “What’s 21 Jump Street?”

Good news, graybeards and whippersnappers: This is a movie we all can dig.

The new Jump Street borrows the same conceit as the old – babyfaced cops go back to high school to narc on naughty kids – but torques it into a ridiculously inappropriate comedy.

The secret is the Mutt-and-Jeff pairing of Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill as the narcs. Tatum is Jenko, the hot cop to Hill’s Schmidt, the smart one. They’re both stunned when they enroll in school to bust a drug ring, only to find that cliques have changed and Schmidt’s the popular one now.

Tatum is all goofy charm as he tries to fit in with the nerds, while Oscar nominee Hill mines his easy wit. They’re both upstaged by Ice Cube as their hilariously cliché Angry Black Captain, who tells them to embrace stereotypes.

It’s that kind of humor, the go-for-broke lunacy that isn’t afraid to offend but never veers to the offensive, that should unite fans of the series and folks who’ve barely heard of it. Surely we could all use the laughs.

Johnny Depp wasn’t the only one to get his start on the hit show. See Brad Pitt, Christina Applegate and others – all in their ’80s glory, below