Rental Corner: “21 Jump Street” is a harmless school course
21 Jump Street was a late 1980s police drama that lasted for four seasons on the FOX network. I can’t say I’m a fan of the show as I never saw an episode, but after reading it up and seeing the movie, I’m more curious to see how the TV show differs than how its sequel “22 Jump Street” will top the smash hit. From what I read up, the show was more serious and dealt with issues of drug abuse, homophobia, and much more. Now the series that launched the career of Johnny Depp is turned into a comedic farce that oddly enough exists in the universe of the TV show. So looking at it as just a movie is harder seeing my mixed feelings I have towards it.
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum team up as rookie cops that become friends in the blink of an eye and are placed into a special division. The division deals with undercover cops disguising as teenagers and busting crimes happening at schools. As it turns out, the two are assigned to deal with a drug bust where the teen goes through four stages of crazy high before collapsing out. While that goes on, the standard cliches of cop buddy comedy are put to the test as Morton Schmidt (Jonah Hill)’s identity gets swapped with his partner and has to deal with courses where his social skills were not strong. If that wasn’t enough, Greg Jenko (Channing Tatum) is stuck in Morton’s stronger subjects as he deals with science classes and nerds that he slowly starts to have a better appreciate for despite his jock attitude.
Its this very element that holds the movie together and its a shame because the rest of it didn’t seem to appeal to me. The comedy does have some laughs but nothing appeared to be “laugh-out loud” to me. The cliches are nice but they are the usual cliches you would find in most cop films like The Heat or the Lethal Weapon movies. I like the idea of younger people working undercover but if I was a teenager and in a class with these two, they would stand out to me as adults from the bulk and look. But I guess that is the joke as some people do question their older appearance but seeing these two were out of school for a good seven years, it feels somewhat off to me.
There is a form of commentary set up on the modern lifestyle of the teenager which has some promise but then it turns into reheated Animal House and Revenge of the Nerds leftovers with the subject of drugs and partying coming into play. At times, they plan around with the idea of how students are lost into peer pressure with one of them being a private drug dealer but other times they show just how more intelligent they appear to the average adult like a bunch of science buffs who can bug a cellphone. Even one of them provides a YouTube video where he shows the progression of the drug being passed around and yet we are placed in a high school with some bright kids and some who act like they could work for the mafia. Something about that feels very undermining to me.
Again, I would be fine with this if the movie’s comedic tone wasn’t confusing to me. Half the time, I can’t tell if I’m watching a parody of cop drama or a straight forward buddy cop comedy. It has the typical cliches like the two partners gaining better skills after working with each other and it has elements that feel like a serious drama but are executed in a comedic manner like a modern day Naked Gun. There’s a scene where Morton and Greg try out the new drug and its effects start to kick in when they are confronted by a gym teacher who transforms into a mechanical cat puppet to a talking ice cream cone in front of their eyes. Its so over the top, that it feels right out of The Naked Gun movies with its surreal imagery. There’s even a running gag where a setup for an explosion is about to happen but reality kicks in and doesn’t happen. Seriously, there’s even a tank that gets shot that has “Fuel & Oil” written on it literally.
The humor swings back and forth between being oddly-funny and way too meta to the point its confusing. Should this be taken as a buddy cop parody or a satire of the original show? Even a character announces “the end of Act 2” further cementing the weird style it takes in. While there are some moments of straight-forward humor (like Morton’s problems of being socially awkward) and some pop culture references planted here and there, the rest of the film feels strange and low-brow to the point where I don’t know if its a buddy comedy or an over the top parody considering the source material its based from.
However, what does work is the comedic relationship between Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum’s characters. In the vein of most buddy comedies, it works to have the most unlikely pair team up and play off of each other with their own attitudes on life and their personal problems. Watching these two on-screen makes the movie worth it. Even when they are conversing with other teenagers, it can be fun to see how they interact with Morton being more open to teen hangouts and Greg warming up the power of science and how “kick-a$$” it can be.
But at the end of day, I feel like I’m watching a basic cop buddy movie even right down to having Ice Cube star as the cliched angry boss that yells at them when they mess up or don’t have a single lead. His part is good but its again it didn’t feel laugh-out funny to me. I feel like the whole movie was taking the classic cliches of a buddy cop film and doing a new spin on them while being an adaption of a TV show drama but nothing came together for me. I felt it was just an ok flick. But, it was a hit at the box-office and plenty of moviegoers liked it so I can’t fault it for that. It just didn’t do much for me. “The Other Guys” had Will Ferrell as a quiet man teaming with Mark Whaleberg. “The Heat” had Sandra Bullock’s nice girl attitude being matched up to size with a loud-mouth and flipping hilarious Melissa McCarthey. “21 Jump Street” has the makings of a buddy comedy in place but it felt standard to me. Not bad but not memorable. Either way, it was harmless.
Posted on June 13, 2014, in Rental Corner and tagged 21 Jump Street, Blockbuster. comedy, Buddy comedy, Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Pill Lord, rental corner, TV adaption. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.