Movie Review: 21 Jump Street

“21 Jump Street” on IMDB

Comedy, 109 Minutes, 2012

[This is the eighth review for this edition of  my semi-regular “my-wife-is-visiting-relatives-so-I’m-watching-loads-of-crappy-movies” film festival.]

So sure, yes – Hollywood is out of ideas and is just recycling old TV shows for a quick buck.  Originality is dead (if it ever existed). We agree on that. Totally. But hell, if they’re going to do it they may as well do it right. Very early in the film we’re told the premise: “We’re reviving a canceled undercover project from the ’80s and revamping it for modern times. The people behind this lack creativity and they’ve run out of ideas, so what they do now is just recycle shit from the past and hope that nobody will notice.”

(An aside – and a minor spoiler – we had just watched “Jennifer’s Body” [IMDB] before this which starred Johnny Simmons [IMDB] who we constantly referred as “Young Neil” from his role in “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” [IMDB].  When he died we loudly – and enjoyably – lamented the horrible death of Young Neil. Then we started this and there he was!  We crowed with joy!  Young Neil lives! Then two minutes later he was dead again and we were forced to cry out in anguish!  It’s not really important… but we did have a lot of fun with it.)

That’s a great attitude. It’s really the only way to handle something like this: know that you’re starting out in a hole and completely own it. There are a lot of clever, introspective gags here (including a hilariously outstanding cameo that I won’t spoil – but that’s pretty much worth the price of admission). That’s not to say that the humor is all highbrow – far from it. There are plenty of easy dick-jokes here but they don’t dominate. You can’t really fault an otherwise clever comedy for grabbing an easy laugh when it’s right there – that’s just common sense.

Unlike the lazy “Dukes of Hazzard” [IMDB] (which basically spat on its source material) or straight updates like “The A-Team” [IMDB] or “The Addams Family” [IMDB] (which are much easier to pull off) this walks a line between introspection and satire. The movie knows that it’s basically a rehash of a TV show that (let’s be honest) wasn’t all that great in the first place. At the same time it never devolves to betraying its source for cheap laughs – it’s clever enough to get its own cheap laughs, thank you very much!

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