In 21 Jump Street (out today), Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill are presented with an opportunity that many a former geek has dreamed of, but only a few movie nerds (plus the guys from the original TV show) have actually lived: They get to go back to high school. As undercover cops tasked with ferreting out a particularly creative drug-maker, they re-enroll in classes, cozy up to the cool kids, throw ragers, and generally go about having as awesome a time as they possibly can while living in their parents’ house. This is something of a back-to-school movie tradition — adults find themselves reborn as wiser, way-more-attractive versions of their teenaged selves, and they go wild. Movie morals dictate that this behavior always backfires — you can’t relive high school, you just have to love yourself now, etc. — but Vulture still wants to believe that someone, someday will be able to coast through their second prom and graduation unnoticed. So we’ve compiled a list of handy tips (based on back-to-school classics like Never Been Kissed, 17 Again, Hiding Out and more) to help you or your next movie character navigate the perilous return to high school.
DO use the buddy system.
Though an accomplice could potentially give away your identity, the backup helps. Josie from Never Been Kissed was only cool once her older brother, Rob, showed up; the Cullens (Twilight) have each other to hang out with, so they don’t have to pal around with fragrant teenage humans all the time. If another adult is not available for your mission, confide in a family member (Hiding Out) or recruit someone to support you from the outside (17 Again).
DON’T get too close to the popular kids.
Even though you have more or less re-enrolled in high school just to win these kids approval, you can’t trust them. (See: Never Been Kissed’s Josie, whose boyfriend gangs up with the mean girls to humiliate Leelee Sobieski’s character; Jonah, who, without giving too much away, lives to regret his bromance with Dave Franco.) It’s important to maintain a respectful relationship with the cool kids, because they’re all-powerful, but they’ll always sell you out. Don’t let the whiff of Cafeteria Power go to your head.
DO be kind to the nerds.
They can help you pass tests (Freaky Friday, 21 Jump Street). They can rig up bombs (21 Jump Street). They will be able to give you a job one day when you get fired from this one because you were too busy having fun in high school to catch the crook or whatever (Never Been Kissed, 21 Jump Street). Let them in.
DON’T get a crush on another student.
Best-case scenario: She’s over 18 and is mad at you for lying (Jump Street, 17 Again). Worst case: She’s your own personal brand of blood heroin and you’ll launch a never-ending war with ancient Italian vampires in order to keep her alive (Twilight).
DON’T get a crush on a teacher, either.
It worked for Josie, and dating a teacher would obviously earn you some street cred, but then you’ll inevitably get caught and be expelled back into adulthood. The whole point of this is not to get caught. The point of this is to stay in high school forever.
DO throw a party.
And if you can get your old high-school buddy who’s posing as your dad to rent a bouncy castle (17 Again), all the better.
DON’T eat anything given to you by teenagers.
There are drugs in it (see: the hash brownie from Never Been Kissed, the real drugs from 21 Jump Street). You’re too old to be doing drugs with teenagers. You might end up rambling about your 401K, thereby tipping everyone off.
DO drive up to school on your first day in a super-sweet car.
Look how cool this looks:
DON’T go to any sort of school-wide event.
Major drama always goes down at organized activities. Prom (Never Been Kissed), the class election (Hiding Out), a basketball game (17 Again) — you name it and someone is crying or barfing into a trash can. And since teenagers like to be as cruel as possible, if they are going to embarrass you, they’ll do it on as big a stage as possible. Don’t go! Be the kind of hip non-joiner teenager that people respect from afar. (Those people still had boyfriends or girlfriends, we think.)
DO remember that you are an adult playing a kid’s game.
And kids are vicious. Don’t ever let yourself believe that you are one of them — that moment of weakness is when they will attack. Stay vigilant. And host some really awesome parties, seriously — it makes for a way better movie.