21 Jump Street

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21 Jump Street

Runtime 109 minutes
Not for children.

From l, Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum in “21 Jump Street.”

Ice Cube, Channing Tatum, and Jonah Hill, in that order, make this teen comedy truly funny. Phil Lord and Chris Miller direct a good script (Michael Bacall from a story by Bacall and Jonah Hill and based on the TV series by Patrick Harburgh and Steve Cannell). This could have been excruciatingly bad, but the pace is well maintained and Tatum’s acting as a dunce stays on the right side of a fine line between comedy and stupidity.

The funniest parts of the movie are when Ice Cube appears as the profane, angry boss of Hill and Tatum.

The film is filled with F-bombs and scatological jokes that some might find offensive, but it is a high school movie and the off color jokes and language are generally humorous, unlike most high school movies. Adding charm to the film is Brie Larson as the high school girl who captures Hill’s heart. But other supporting performances also stand out, particularly Rob Riggle (a former combat-hardened marine in real life before he became an actor), who plays a coach at the high school, and Chris Parnell, who plays a goofy acting teacher.

The plot is that Tatum and Hill are two mismatched former high school classmates who become policemen and are assigned to go under cover at a high school to catch drug runners. This is a fine screwball comedy in the old tradition that had me laughing out loud.

Project X

Run time 90 minutes.
Not for children.

“Project X.”

Contrasted with the quality of 21 Jump Street, this high school movie never crosses the line between comedy and stupidity, always staying well to the wrong side. Producer Todd Phillips is from the Judd Apatow mold of comedic producers/directors. He eschews intelligence and wit for crudity and shock value.

In what is probably the lowest cost film of the year, he gets rookie Nima Nourizadeh to direct a bunch of unknowns who were cast through a nationwide talent search, so I won’t waste your time naming them. Three 17 year old seniors want to create a reputation among the cool kids in school so they throw a wild party at the house of Thomas Mann when his parents leave for the weekend. His father put his trust in Thomas to take care of the house.

Naturally it’s destroyed as Thomas gets thousands of teenagers to party, drink, and rut in the house, backyard, and swimming pool. There is a plethora of drinking, drug use, nudity, lots of quick shots of nubile girls’ breasts, and sex. What’s lacking is humor and morality.

In fact, the moral of this tawdry film is that even though Thomas betrayed his parents’ trust, destroys the house, forces his father into bankruptcy, and turns the neighborhood into anarchy, in the end Phillips’ moral is that this was exactly the right thing to do and Thomas gains his father’s respect. Maybe there are parents in this world who are as bereft of common sense as Thomas’ father, but I hope there aren’t many.

I wonder how many impressionable teens will be encouraged to disrespect their parents’ trust after they see this movie that glorifies idiotic, depraved behavior. While the staging and cinematography (Ken Seng) are exceptionally good, this is a despicable movie and Warner Bros. should be ashamed of itself. It seems intended to appeal to immature teens and young adults to influence them to think that this sort of behavior is the way to become liberated.

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