Friday, March 16, 2012

Phil Lord & Chris Miller: 21 Jump Street

Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, 21 Jump Street, Columbia Pictures, 2012.

O juvenilia, twixt days of reckless fun and wild abandon, we all learn the suffocating rules of American popular comedy pictures. Amid all the stale Sandler shenanigans, the DOA Eddie Murphy vehicles, and now, lame Kevin James family films. Woody Allen and the Farrelly Brothers are really the only consistent comedic auteurs. In yester-year we had Blake Edwards, Preston Sturges, Frank Tashlin, and Billy Wilder. Today's comedy stars are cornered into inept premises which are far beneath their talents. Owen Wilson and Anna Faris deserve better.

Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller both deliver an intermittently hilarious but uneven comic filmization of the cheezy, hugely popular 80s television series, 21 Jump Street. The initial phenomenon having launched the career of one of our country's great actors, Johnny Depp. This time around, the writers curb to studio clamps on plot, but throw in enough male braggadocio and toilet humor to try and make up for the familiarity. In the end, none of it feels particularly fresh. Casting the athletic, bland Channing Tatum with the schlubby, sarcastic Jonah Hill actually works. They play off one another well, making us believe in their "bromance" as they dive headfirst into one hairy situation after another. Its all just dressing for the dirt we know too well.

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