21 JUMP STREET (Dirs. Phil Lord & Chris Miller, 2012)
At one point in this reboot/re-imagining/re-whatever of the ‘80s show 21 Jump Street (the Fox TV show that made Johnny Depp a household name), undercover cop heroes (Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum) are in the middle of a high speed ‘don’t let the bad guy get away!’ chase, and they commandeer a Student Driver car from their high school parking lot.
A driving instructor tries to stop them from taking the vehicle, but instead of running after them yelling expletives, and/or shaking his fist at them like in so many other movies, the hapless guy just shrugs and says “Aw, who cares?” then walks out of the shot.
In that, and many other amusing moments, 21 JUMP STREET shows its hand - it’s not here to viciously satirize cop movie conventions, it just wants to riff on them playfully.
Take the chase that follows - in all chaos of gas truck collisions they side-swipe, Hill and Tatum keep expecting huge explosions, because, you know, there are always explosions in these sequences – but the film toys with that scenario with a ‘wait for it’ type teasing.
As a couple of young immature policemen named Schmidt and Jenko who think they can party while fighting crime, Hill and Tatum are assigned to Jump Street under the lead of Captain Dickson (a hilariously harsh Ice Cube perfectly parodying the clichéd angry black police chief role) who complains of the program: “All they can do is recycle old ideas from the ‘80s” Get it?
So the doofus duo gets a do over of their unhappy high school years while trying to take down a synthetic drug ring and proving themselves as law enforcers, but nobody is going to see this for its plot – it’s all about the silly scatalogical shenanigans these guys get into. However, Hill and Tatum get more laughs from their frantic one-liner exchanges than the gross-out stuff.
The supporting cast doesn’t really stand out around their schtick – Brie Larson as Hill’s unlikely love interest is just a popular yet insecure high school blonde archetype, James Franco’s younger brother Dave doesn’t register either – only Rob Riggle, who seems to be having a lot of fun with his beefy high school coach character, makes an impression.
Directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller (the guys who made CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS), and written by Hill and Michael Bacall (co-writer of SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD) 21 JUMP STREET falls into the tradition of making a movie out of a beloved TV show (See: Dragnet, The Brady Bunch, Starsky and Hutch, etc.) that’s as much a satire of its subject series as it is an self-consciously hip update.
It also falls into the category of movies that are just funny enough to get by (See: PAUL, HOT TUB TIME MACHINE, HORRIBLE BOSSES).
Obviously, It’s not shooting to be a comedy classic (or even an action comedy classic), it seems alright with being a lowbrow lark for teenagers or for folks that want to recall their teenage memories of old campy TV shows, in a comical light.
I want to say I wish it were just a tad funnier and a little less in-jokey, but…aw, who cares?