Thursday, February 9, 2012

21 Jump Street review; a remake worth watching!

21 Jump Street is a movie in a long list of remakes based on 1980's television shows.  The television show catapulted Johnny Depp's career, and he hasn't looked back since.  That was the show, and this is the movie.  It is directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs).  It was written by Michael Bacall, based on a story by one of its stars, Jonah Hill.  Hill and Channing Tatum play police officers who are sent undercover to a local high school, to take down a drug ring.  Let's go!

What I liked about the film:
The Actors
This is an interesting fact; before Jonah Hill showed interest in the project, it was being remade as a drama.  With Hill's work on the story, the film quickly took a comedic turn.  And thankfully so.  Jonah Hill is terrific in the film.  There are some great scenes showcasing Hill and Tatum in high school; and Hill's insecurities come to light.  He was able to portray what so many high school kids feel/felt.  He's a smart young man that never really fit in to the "in crowd".  I especially like the reference to all the wanna be Eminem kids that came to life in 2005.

Channing Tatum is great!  He has to play the tough jock, who also has insecurities he's not comfortable with.  He has the best character arc in the film and I really enjoyed his performance.  Ice Cube plays a funny character who is heading up the 21 Jump Street program.  Rob Riggle plays a great character who favors jocks, and not smart kids (we knew teachers like that right?).  Dave Franco makes his older brother James proud.  He is very funny and fully capable of keeping up with Hill and Tatum.  

The Duo
I obviously enjoyed the acting, but I enjoyed the friendship even more.  The movie is very fast paced.  We see Hill and Tatum become friends in the first few minutes, and somehow it works.  They don't waste much time developing the friendship, which I was ok with.  The actors have such different, contrasting styles, it worked perfectly.  The actors are so different, physically, it actually played to the comedy.  I am curious to see how much of the movie was improv, because if it was, I couldn't tell.  Nice job for both the main actors.

The Story
Simple, easy to follow fun.  That's what other comedy remakes are not understanding.  Try to be more, and you will fail.  Hill and Tatum need to find a drug supplier at a high school, and to do so, they go undercover.  Simple.  The story lends itself to a lot of situational comedy.  How teachers and coaches view the lead actors is great (I love Ellie Kemper from "The Office").  How times have changed so much in just 7 years (It's cool to be smart now?!).  Minus two very obvious "shocker" moments, I really enjoyed the story behind the undercover work.

What I didn't like about the film:
The Directors
Phil Lord and Chris Miller didn't do it for me.  The action sequences, albeit limited, are terrible.  They are poorly choreographed, shot, lit, etc.  They're not easy to watch.  The two young directors came from an animation background, very similar to Brad Bird.  The only difference is, Brad Bird made an amazing action film with Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.  Granted there's a lot more to directing than creating action sequences, but the action can not be ignored.

The Verdict:
A remake worth making
There have been so many remakes, unnecessary remakes.  21 Jump Street flips the notion on its head.  I love the idea of transforming the television show into a comedy film.  Hill and Tatum are terrific, as are the story and script.  I didn't enjoy the direction, but it wasn't enough to discourage others from watching the movie.  Pay close attention and see if you can catch all the cameos from the original tv show!  Check it out when it hits theaters next month.

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