21 Jump Street

Image_square_webby Susan

2012, Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum and Ice Cube. Directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller.

In case you didn’t know, 21 Jump Street was a TV show created by Stephen J. Cannell in the late 1980s. I never watched it myself, although I know a lot of people who looooved it. I think they probably liked it so much because it featured nice-looking baby-faced actors playing cops who could, theoretically at least, infiltrate high schools and blend in as teenagers while conducting undercover operations. How cool is that!? Anyway, I didn’t discover Johnny Depp until the amazing Edward Scissorhands. Yes, that’s right, in case you’ve been living under a rock or a in a moon cave for the past 25 years or so, Johnny Depp was the heartthrob of a TV cop show before he made the big leap to the silver screen. (See how I resisted temptation to use the phrase “jumped ship” which would have called to mind not only 21 Jump Street, but also his Pirates of the Caribbean franchise? You’re welcome!)

The only possible way to pay homage to the 21 Jump Street of 80’s television is to make it a parody, and that can be tricky. A good parody must pay homage to its origin story and also be gut-bustingly funny in a warm-hearted, nostalgic sense without going overboard and insinuating that the original was just plain stupid or lame – even if it might have been. The movie triumphs in that regard; it is not only hilarious, thanks mainly to the two leads, but also true to the intent of the original TV show – good-looking grownup cops getting involved with teenagers. (If that wasn’t the original intent of the TV show, I don’t care because I never watched it, as I mentioned already.)

So, getting on with the review… To paraphrase a description of the old TV show: “21 Jump Street is the address of the headquarters for a squad of police officers who specialize in investigations relating to young people. Each of the Jump St. personnel was selected for their ability to pass for high school students, allowing them to operate undercover in areas where it is difficult for regular police officers to blend in unnoticed.” That’s pretty much the same synopsis for the movie, except that Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum play two police officers who sort of… “complete” each other. Hill was a hopeless nerd and Tatum was a popular dumb jock from the same high school; they discover each other again at the police academy and help each other graduate to become inept police officers on bicycles. Not content with such a lame assignment, they are given a chance to prove themselves when transferred to the Jump Street squad. Hilarity ensues as they revert to their old teenage personas of nerd and popular jock but their undercover identities have them switched; Hill must play the popular guy and Tatum must be the brainy one.

Confused by the social cliques, attire, language, sensibilities, and just about everything having to do with teenagerness of current times, the two cops must find a way to work together to take down a drug ring operating out of the high school before its illicit poison can spread through the city and beyond. Along the way they will become a little too immersed in their fictional roles as teenagers.

Tatum and Hill are both superb in their respective roles, the supporting cast is excellent, the script is sharp and witty, the action sequences are both over the top spectacular and spectacularly uproarious. There is plenty here to help fans fondly remember the old TV show but for those who never watched it – like me – this movie stands on its own, never faltering as it hurtles its way to an explosive climax with a few welcome surprises along the way.

In a word, it’s FUNNY. Go see it.

Three boxes of popcornRating: Triple Serving

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Jack and Jill

Image_square_webBy Susan

2011 Adam Sandler, Katie Holmes, Al Pacino. Directed by Dennis Dugan.

I love reruns of Saturday Night Live with Adam Sandler – he’s hilarious! Sadly for me, that appreciation for his particular brand of comedy has not transferred very well to his movies. I tend to think of most of Sandler’s efforts on the big screen as so-so, rarely rising above just another mediocre attempt at crude bathroom humor aimed at sophomoric males. That’s okay, though, there’s a place for all kinds of humor, even the crude kind, as long as I don’t have to be subjected to it on a regular basis.

Curiously, one of the few Adam Sandler movies I can say I really enjoyed was You Don’t Mess with the Zohan (2008). There is something about the idea of an Israeli “James Bond” superspy who always really wanted to be a hair stylist instead of a secret agent that is so ludicrous it appeals to my weird sense of humor. When I started seeing the previews for Jack and Jill, I wasn’t immediately persuaded that it should go on my “must-see” list. When I noticed it was rated PG I reevaluated and decided that maybe if it is less crude and more suitable for kids, then perhaps it might have room to be a little more clever. Besides, seeing Adam Sandler playing a loud, obnoxious, insensitive female version of himself had to provide some level of entertainment value on its own.

Jack and Jill are twins who were born and raised in the Bronx. Jack went on to become a successful producer of television commercials in Southern California with a beautiful wife, beautiful kids, and beautiful home. Jill stayed in the old neighborhood in the Bronx, caring for their parents and not having much of a social life. She misses her “twin time” with Jack terribly, and looks forward to her annual holiday visit with Jack and his family as the highlight of every year. The problem is, Jack dreads her visits and wants to spend as little time with her as possible.

This year is no exception but Jack has an additional problem: he must convince Al Pacino to do a commercial for Dunkin Donuts. The chances of getting Al Pacino to do a singing and dancing television commercial is particularly ridiculous, especially since Mr. Pacino has recently exhibited signs of a “nervous breakdown” while starring in a stage production of a serious Shakespearean play. When Pacino meets Jill while she is tagging along with Jack as he tries to enlist him for the commercial, the Oscar-winning actor is smitten and becomes obsessed with her. Really, the only logical explanation for this is insanity. But this brand of insanity is hilariously funny, as Pacino plays an over-the-top “method” acting version of himself that skewers not only his fame for The Godfather, but Hollywood pretentiousness in general.

Insane hilarity ensues, culminating in the obligatory sequence where Jack must impersonate his female twin in an attempt to salvage the situation. Since this one has a family-friendly rating and is a holiday comedy to boot, rest assured that by the end of the movie everyone has learned the lesson they needed to learn, everyone who needed to be put in their place has been put there, and we are treated to a sweet happy ending. Yes, there is a liberal dose of bathroom humor along the way, not to mention enough product placement to almost qualify as a 90-minute commercial, but I was laughing out loud throughout the entire film. Some of the biggest laughs came from the surprising cameos:  David Spade, Dana Carvey, Johnny Depp (YES, that’s really Johnny Depp and he’s really wearing a Justin Bieber t-shirt!), Regis Philbin, John McEnroe, Shaquille O’Neal, Drew Carey, Christie Brinkley, and Bruce Jenner.

This movie’s appeal may be limited to those of us with a weird sense of humor, but I don’t care. It was just plain funny in a mindless, completely escapist way. If you are experiencing holiday stress or too much time with relatives this time of year, I suggest you go see Jack and Jill; you’ll gain a whole new appreciation for your family.

Two boxes of popcorn

Rating: Double Serving plus a big bag of Peanut M&Ms!