Man of the Week

Jonah Hill

So is the star of 21 Jump Street (out today) still funny now he's thin?

Jonah Hill reckons he knows what people are saying about him. “People are, like, ‘Oh, is he not funny anymore?’” he confessed recently.

The star of Knocked Up and Superbad wasn’t talking about last year’s improbable but inspired casting opposite Philip Seymour Hoffman and Brad Pitt in soaring but serious baseball drama Moneyball.

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Or the fact that the role landed him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor; suddenly putting him in the same bracket as Kenneth Branagh. He was talking about the fact he’s lost weight. Ergo: the jolly fat man must have lost his jolly.

Anyone looking at Hill’s next project might have had further concerns. A remake of Eighties’ police procedural drama 21 Jump Street, the TV show remembered now (if at all) as the one that gave Johnny Depp his big break, it puts model and GI Joe star Channing Tatum with Hill in perhaps the most unpromising buddy-cop pairing ever.

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Then there’s the plot: Hill and Tatum go from sworn high-school enemies (he’s Schmidt the nerd; he’s Jenko the jock) to police academy partners to undercover “teenagers” attempting to break up a drug ring possibly run by James Franco’s brother, Dave.

Ice Cube plays their table-thumping captain. But from that hokey premise comes knockabout gold: 21 Jump Street is at least as gloriously daft as anything on Hill’s CV.

A remake in name only, Tatum is a comedy revelation while Hill can feel confident he’s totally nailed his ambition to make an “R-rated, insane, Bad Boys-meets-John Hughes-type movie”.

The director, for example, had to abandon his attempt to edit a version they could show on aeroplanes: there was so much swearing to remove, there was no movie left. (An angry Tatum to a biker he’s threatening to bust: “Do you want me to beat your dick off?”) 21 Jump Street also sees Hill enter “a whole new ballgame” as writer, actor and producer, and while it’s unlikely to win him any 2013 Oscar nods it should certainly keep the diet fascists happy: the thin man’s jolly is alive and well.

21 Jump Street is out 16 March

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