Saturday, March 17, 2012

No Phallacy With Phallic Jokes in 'Jump Street'

Do you ever go to the movies and are disappointed when the funniest scenes are in the trailer? Me too. But luckily this isn't one of those movies.

Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum team up in the foul-mouthed action/comedy, police-farce 21 Jump Street, a remake of the late 80's TV series that follows two undercover cops investigating crimes-- in this case a high school. And I promise you, no trailer could legally show the funniest scenes in this film.

It's a clever, self-aware story with a simple premise, which as long as you don't take it too seriously you're almost guaranteed a good time. Hill and Tatum's characters are assigned to pose as teen-aged students in a high school to investigate the distribution of a new drug that recently killed one of its students. Hill, having been the unnoticed, unpopular nerd with no lady-swag, gets to relive his high school days by befriending the cool-clique, led by the leader and suspected drug dealer Eric (Dave Franco). Meanwhile, Tatum realizes there might have been more to high school than picking on nerds, chasing girls and undervaluing his education.

 It sounds like an odd pairing, but Hill and Tatum actually work extremely well together--a symbiotic relationship. Hill seems the obvious fit for this type of film, known for his comedic roles, i.e.: Superbad, Knocked Up. But Tatum, who's probably more known for his overly-masculine roles (Fighting, G.I. Joe, Haywire, take your pick) was surprisingly humorous. In fact, the film occasionally poked fun at Tatum's lady-appeal. Their (AP) chemistry never felt forced and both drew some solid and funny performances. I believe both actors can be versatile, when they want. Hill showed us a dramatic performance in Moneyball and Tatum, although have been disappointed with his choice in movies in recent years, gave a very profound and vulnerable performance that I will not forget in A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints.

What sets this film above other action comedies in recent years is a very self-aware story based on a simple premise. There's almost no chance in being original with this type of story and genre, so the only way to achieve any kind of success is to poke fun at itself. It relies on the idea that its audience is also self aware in order to get away with being a little absurd and stretching the limits of reality to achieve ultimate comic-affect. For example, during a fast-paced car chase both Hill and Channing's characters wonder why nothing's blowing up. And like I mentioned, as long as you don't take it too seriously you can see how clever it can be and will find amusement in all its illogical humor.

And let's not forget--all the dick jokes. Just when you think one dick joke is better than the last another one hits you right in the...well, you get the picture. The jokes are fresh, current and often times crude, making this the ideal film for the teenage, young adult demographic (or at least anyone with a sense of humor, in my opinion).

Brie Larson, Ice Cube, Ellie Kemper, Rob Riggle and Chris Parnell co-star. Cube's expected ruthlessness and bellowing came at no surprise, but also didn't keep me from laughing any harder. I can't stress how self-aware this film is and if you're willing to just be entertained for about an hour and a half, I highly recommend you check out one of the best comedies to come out in a while.

Rating: B+

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