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Friday, 23 May 2014

21 Jump Street (2012)

Since you ask, I have in fact now watched a second Pakistani film -- "Josh" (2013) aka "Against the Grain". However, I did promise to lighten up for today's blog, so I won't tell you that it was yet another indictment against negative forces and repression in a third world country, focussing on an entire community in feudal servitude, rather than just one family suffering religious intolerance. I also won't tell you that it was inspired by true events which led to the founding of communal soup kitchens in poor areas. You'll have to watch the movie if you want to know any more and somehow I don't think I've made it sound too enticing... Very worthy nonetheless.

So today's cheerful review will examine the above incredibly popular yet incredibly dumb movie, so successful that the sequel is now available in your local picture palace! Based on a 1980's sitcom which is best remembered for bringing one Johnny Depp to the world's attention, it's a tale of undercover rookie cops going back to high school to unearth whatever naughty things were going on, in this instance a new designer drug-racket. The mismatched pair in this 're-imagining' are Tatum Channing and Jonah Hill, ex-High School classmates where Channing's Jenko was the popular jock who bullied Hill's nerdish brainbox, Schmidt.
Why they should both choose to join the police force and how they unbelievably became close buddies is probably neither here or there. The fact that they are both pretty incompetent new officers and the fact that they 'look young' (yeah, yeah, yeah) is sufficient motivation for their tough desk sergeant, Ice Cube -- a throwback to another 80's  cliché, to assign them to the high school gig.

I can just see the writers slapping their thighs with the conceit that dishy Jenko will be taken up by the class nerds and that in the new politically correct environment Schmidt will be thought of as the 'cool' one and will find the kind of popularity he never experienced before. I've read that Channing is something of a revelation here, being given the opportunity to exercise his comic skills -- but my reaction is 'what comic skills?' since I found the whole shooting match a pretty mirth-free exercise. In the past Hill has shown rather more range in his roles, but he makes Schmidt a pretty boorish fellow. That's not to say that the movie was unwatchable, it was sweet in parts, but hardly any sort of laugh riot. Maybe if I had been an aficionado of the original TV program, I might have been amused by the various cameo nods to the original cast.

Obviously there is one major cameo role -- hardly a surprise or as unexpected as it is meant to be -- by an uncredited actor; no prizes for guessing who. He plays a heavily disguised member of a criminal biker gang with whom our heroes tangle in the misplaced shoot-em-up finale that finally proves their mettle. Anyhow, there was nothing here to encourage me to gallop off this evening to see the sequel with Jenko and Schmidt undercover in college. I think I can wait for that 'pleasure'.      
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