Johnny Depp is without a doubt one of the most talented actors working today. Sure, he’s made some bad choices (Wonka!) but on the whole he’s quite dependable for a solid performance. After being ripped to shreds by Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street Depp became a teen heartthrob after his leading role in the TV series 21 Jump Street. I have never seen the show, but have always heard people mention it and how it really introduced them to Depp. So is the film adaptation of the beloved show able to stand on it’s own or is the shadow of Depp too large for the film to peak around?
One thing fans of the show are probably asking themselves is whether or not they should check out the movie. I think those involved with making the movie must have thought about this and decided to create a comedy instead of working on a police drama like the TV Show. I know there are probably some purists out there that think doing this was a horrible decision, but in reality, they might not have supported any adaptation of the series. So, having never seen the TV show, what was my impression of 21 Jump Street? I liked it a good bit.
As I’ve mentioned before, for me the mark of a good comedy these days is that the funniest bits aren’t all shown in clips and commercials. There’s nothing more annoying than settling into a theater preparing to laugh like crazy and realizing you’ve seen the funniest parts of the movie several few times in trailers. One of the points of this blog is to let you know whether or not a movie or restaurant is worth your time and money. Thankfully, 21 Jump Street is worth your time and money.
The plot is fairly straightforward; two newly minted police officers are sent undercover as high school students to help stop the spread of a deadly new street drug before it begins wreaking havoc throughout the city. The two officers are played by Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. Both actors have appeared in more serious roles recently, Hill even being nominated for an Oscar, but in my opinion, they are both well suited for comedy. Hill is great as the brainy Schmidt while Tatum excels as the “meathead”, Jenko. The two have good chemistry together so it’s fun to watch them interact with one another and those they encounter.
With 21 Jump Street I think we are seeing a new sub-genre emerging. I call it, “bromantic comedy”. I won’t get into details, but the film supplements its buddy cop core with romantic comedy tropes. I know the events portrayed in the film aren’t totally unique, but I never really noticed how closely these events in buddy movies parallel those in romantic comedies until I saw 21 Jump Street. But who am I kidding, you’re not here for an academic analysis of the buddy cop genre, you want to know why you should pay to see 21 Jump Street!
Bottomline, I think you should check it out if you were at least slightly interested in seeing it after watching the trailers. There are plenty of laughs to go around. Days after seeing it I still find myself chuckling at quips that I didn’t really think much about in the theater. Revisiting Jump Street is definitely near the top of my to-do list.
There are plenty of laughs present but the film does still have some shortfalls. The first is it might be too self-referential for some. Personally I enjoyed those bits as it showed the movie’s creators were aware of the pitfalls they might encounter when adapting a TV Show people care about into a movie. The other thing I think might turn some folks off is the plethora of references to & jokes revolving around male genitalia. Put simply, there are a lot of “dick jokes” and I don't mean detective jokes. It isn’t a constant stream of genitalia jokes, but there are a good number to go around. The jokes aren’t really forced, since the detectives are still young and could very well communicate with one another in a crass manner, but I want to give folks a heads up in case they’re totally off-put by that type of humor. 21 Jump Street is a R-rated comedy, so don't go in expecting the most high-concept, high-brow humor you've seen in an American multiplex in years. If you like to laugh and are of age, I think you owe it to yourself to check out 21 Jump Street.
Verdict: One of the better comedies I've seen in a while. I think it's worth checking out if you can overlook the occassional crass joke or two.
The Buddy System: One of my favorite comedies is Hot Fuzz. It just so happens to be a “buddy cop” movie and is really my measuring stick for films in the sub-genre. 21 Jump Street isn’t quite at the same level, but they’re tough to compare because their humor is so different, one is British after all. Both feature good chemistry between their leads and a wonderful blend of comedy & action. These features are key to a buddy cop film being worth watching. I think American audiences will love 21 Jump Street. The box office results indicate as much.
Let Your Dim Light Shine: Ellie Kemper, probably best known to those of you at home as Erin from The Office, has a wonderful turn as a teacher at the school. After seeing Ms. Kemper in small roles in 21 Jump Street and Bridesmaids I’m excited to see where her career goes. She has been nailing her smaller roles and I don’t think it’ll be long before we see her get a shot at a larger supporting role in upcoming comedies. Not sure if she’s ready for primetime just yet, but she might be one to keep an eye on.