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Friday, March 23, 2012

21 Jump Street (Release Date: 3-16-2012)

        Logic can be the bane of a movie's existence. Some flicks, like action thrillers, or horror entries, torture their audience with poor decision making and clumsy exposition. Others, like heist movies, or biopics, dedicate so much focus and attention to making sense that they forget to entertain altogether. But Co-Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller have just the solution for this paralyzing conundrum: Ignore logic completely. How else do you explain the easy friendship that evolves between schlubby geek Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and his air-headed jock of a high school (tor)mentor, Jenko (Channing Tatum). Or the rampant damage that the two cause, both socially within the school, and to private property outside its doors, without ever receiving a slap on the wrist? There's simply no explaining these occurrences; They're open wish-fufillment, and one of the smartest moves that 21 Jump Street makes is not only being honest about fantasy trappings, but wearing them proudly.

        You'll know this from the very start, when Hill and Tatum breeze through years worth of backstory and friendship development in mere minutes, all before Ice Cube shows up to chew scenery for what seems like hours. In this fantasy land, the two are assigned to go under-cover as high school students, and bring down a drug ring whose leader might just be a student. What the two find there is sometimes more interesting than funny: Tatum, once the ruler of the High School kingdom, turns out be be neither smart nor eco-friendly enough to be one of the popular kids, just as Hill's dry humor and self-defacing attitude come into style. It's an intriguing commentary on social shifts (and a surprisingly positive one, if you ask me), but it just doesn't give you the giggles the way that it should. The scenes that do get the guffaws are nearly always physical in nature, wether the leads are tripping out on drugs, or in the middle of some kind of action sequence, creating a slight rift right down the middle of the thing.

        Don't get me wrong: 21 Jump Street is a fun flick. Hill and Tatum have a great manic energy together, even if the improbable nature of their pairing distracts. Lord and Miller, making their live-action debut after their similarly loopy Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, deserve some style points for the way that the whole thing is sewn together, and they keep the thing moving for much longer that most comedies get away with (110 minutes, almost all of them entertaining). I suppose that I just went in with my expectations a tad high: I was looking forward to great time at the movies, and I received what passes for a great time at the movies in March. The days of Summer couldn't come soon enough.

Grade: B-

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