Jumping to the Chase: I just watched 21 Jump Street on DVD. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum dance nervously around each other as a pair of Odd Couple cops assigned to infiltrate a local high school. High is the operative word here. Someone in the school has concocted a new brain poppin’ designer drug and it is up to our undercover ops to find out what‘s cookin` (and who‘s cookin` it.) .
Directing tag team Phil Lord and Chris Miller have fun with high school movie stereotypes. (Tatum`s character is obviously way too old to be in high school. He can barely fit into his desk.) I found the movie fitfully engaging at best but I am evidently in the minority (again!), The flick scored 69 out of 100 on metacritic.com.
Full Disclosure 1 : I have never seen the TV series. I am not a particular fan of either of the two stars. I am definitely outside the target demo for this pic (to put it charitably). In fact, I am not even sure why I rented this movie.
Is Jonah Hill The New Brett Ratner: Certainly, Mr. Hill has taken a businesslike approach to his career. Not content to simply mug for the camera he also co-wrote the story for 21 Jump St (with Scott Pilgrim vs. The World screenwriter Michael Bacall) and is credited as one of the executive producers. As I understand it Mr. Hill also came up with the idea of reinventing the original teen TV drama series as a goofball comedy. And you gotta give the kid credit … he knows his demographics. According to boxofficemojo.com the pic grossed almost $200 mil worldwide on a $42 mil budget. (Yes, a sequel is in the works.) Unlike Mr. Ratner, Mr. Hill can also emote convincingly on camera (without the aid of bathroom humor) when he is motivated enough. (He was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance opposite Brad Pitt in Moneyball.)
Homophobic or Hilarious? There are enough penis jokes in the script to make Judd Apatow envious. And the repeated references to a certain oral act makes one wonder: what is up with all the homophobic humor? Ask a teenage boy in the audience why he is laughing and he‘ ll probably say it`s because it`s funny (or words to that effect.) Ask him why he thinks it`s funny and the answer may be a little more ambiguous. Are the kind of adolescent males that usually go to movies like this (and later tweet their friends to tell them how funny it was) insecure about their masculinity? I dunno. Even as a teenager, I was never rolling in the aisles over racist, religious or ethnic humor. And, no, I`m not trying to sound self-righteous here. Believe me, as a teenaged male, I was as shallow and self-absorbed as the best (or worst) of them.
Why are young women laughing? (22 year old actress Renee Oldstead tweeted: “Had so much fun at the 21 Jump Street premiere last night! I laughed so hard I cried!! Must see!”) Well, you would have to ask Ms. Olstead.
However, after years of wincing through misogynist references it has to be a relief for female viewers to laugh at male directed humor for a change.
Full Disclosure 2 : I love women. In fact, and this is a dealbreaker with many young males, I also like women. Call me a closet heterosexual.
The Big P : Perhaps it is just a phase fans of this kind of humor are going through. Maybe they will grow out of it or become cable TV writers. Speaking of which, the same giggly nervous humor doesn‘t seem to seep into a lot of the TV shows I watch.
I was watching Season One of Showtime`s The Big C on DVD recently. There is an episode in which Paul Jamison (Oliver Platt) is attending a dinner meeting to celebrate a promotion. When two of his male co-workers announce they are getting married Paul makes an unflattering remark about gay sex but the majority of his rant seems directed at the institution of marriage itself. (He has just spyed his wife, Cathy, played by the always superb Laura Linney, frolicking in the couple`s backyard with another man.)
The scene reminds me of a remark made by a comedian on some late night show who confided to the audience that he believed in gay marriage. After all, he reasoned, why shouldn`t they be just as miserable as the rest of us?
By the way, the name of the captain in charge of the operation in 21 Jump Street is Captain Dickson.
And if you find that funny, you`ll probably love the movie.