Guest Review: Eric Silverman On 21 Jump Street

Hello, world.  To quote Kenny Powers and Pearl Jam…”oh, I…ohhhh, I’m still alive.”

Sorry about the lack of updates over the past week – I was in Florida for a bit of a work vacation before baseball season starts in about two weeks.  (Whoa.)  We’ll return back to more normalcy here, but we start this week with a guest review.  Here’s Eric Silverman with his thoughts on the new hit movie, 21 Jump Street

——

I never saw the television show 21 Jump Street. I knew two things about it. One – that it was part of Johnny Depp’s normal career in the 1980s (along with some resort movie with the FBI guy from “N3mbers” [I hope I put the 3 in the right spot]), before he started all of his wacky roles including Edward Scisscorhands, Captain Jack Sparrow, and Willy Michael Jackson Wonka. I also knew that Richard Grieco was in it. Why do I know that? And why do I know who Richard Grieco is? Because the entire plot line of A Night at the Roxbury is that the guys get hit by Richard Grieco’s car, and to avoid them suing him, he brings them to the Roxbury. I think a few years later, after the successes that were Corky Romano and Monkeybone, Chris Kattan probably regretted not going with the lawsuit instead.

I expected this movie to be based off of the television series, which I had no ill feelings toward, because I had never seen the series. However, it turns out this isn’t based off of the series, and just the “Jump Street” program in which young cops are placed undercover in high schools to investigate and solve crimes.

The film begins with Jonah Hill (I am referencing characters by the actors, because I don’t feel like going to Wikipedia or IMDB to look up their actual names) walking into his high school with bleach blonde hair and a metal chain while Eminem’s “The Real Slim Shady” plays in the background for moviegoers who see a graphic shown that it is 2005 at that point. I was in disbelief. No one dressed like that by 2005. Em’s bleach blond look had been over for years. And they could have used more current Eminem music. Even two years earlier, in 2003, my walk-in song at my Bar Mitzvah was an instrumental remix of “Without Me.” “The Real Slim Shady” was way too old at that point. To set the scene properly for 2005, the film should have started with the playing of something from 2004’s Encore, the most recent Eminem album at that time. Would viewers have recognized “Just Lose it” or “A** Like That” as much?  No. But it would have been more appropriate and historically accurate.

Historical accuracy at its finest.

After they showcase that Jonah Hill was a nerd in high school and Channing Tatum was a popular kid who was not smart in school, they flash forward to them training at the police academy in the present day. The two end up becoming friends, and after a misadventure, end up being assigned to the “Jump Street” program. It is noted that they were assigned to an old program that was being started up again and recycled years later, because police program creators couldn’t come up with any good new ideas. Great self-knock on this movie itself. The film stays humble, which is awesome.

They end up investigating a new drug that is being produced, distributed, and sold at this high school campus. I don’t want to write a book report here, so instead of going through the entire plot, let’s take a look at some of the memorable characters from the school.

Chris Parnell as Drama Teacher: Such an underrated Saturday Night Live cast member. I don’t understand how he hasn’t been cast more since he left. He was the only guy in the Bruce Dickinson cowbell sketch who didn’t break character, and his deadpan ability continues to be displayed in his Jump Street role.

“Gene, wait! Why don’t you lay down that cowbell right now…with us…together.”

Erin from The Office as Chemistry Teacher: She is likeable as a teacher who hits on Channing Tatum. But her bipolarability is a little unbelievable, similar to Erin’s when she is dealing with her feelings for Andy. It’s adorable, but would a person in real life act like that?

Young James Franco as popular drug-dealing kid: His car runs on fryer oil from a Chinese takeout. He’s vegan. Jonah Hill blames his popularity on Glee. Outside of his eco-interests, it is the exact same cocky, self-absorbed character he played on that awful final season of Scrubs, aka Scrubs: The New Class, which also featured the return of Screech.

The movie runs its course, and is very enjoyable. But a couple of hours after I left the theater, I thought “why did I like it so much?” I then realize it’s because Jonah Hill is the exact same character he was in Superbad. It’s the exact same jokes and the same awkwardness when he fits in with the popular crowd. And of course he’s back in high school again. I don’t get his age career path: seemingly recent college grad in Grandma’s Boy, college kid in Accepted, early-mid 20s in Knocked Up, high school in Superbad, bunch of adult roles, then back to being a seemingly recent college grad. He is Michelle Trachtenburg-ing (see Eurotrip, 17 Again) it. However, his character is awesome. Credit Jonah Hill for co-writing the story for this movie, and I’m sure coming up with all of his hilarious one-liners, and likely basing this character and others like his Superbad role – off of himself. Like Adam Sandler and Will Ferrell, I’m okay with the same character in each movie, as long as the movie is well written, which this one is. Speaking of Will Ferrell, his prayers to Baby Jesus in Talladega Nights are nothing compared to Jonah Hill’s 21 Jump Street prayers to Korean Jesus.

The first Google image result for “Korean Jesus.” Do with it what you may.

Channing Tatum is the same boring, stoic, good looking dude he is in every movie. He is basically the straight man in this which is okay. The best part of his plot line is you get to see a previously popular kid befriending nerds. This is basically a movie’s worth of a plot line taken from the series finale of Freaks and Geeks when James Franco’s Daniel becomes one of the geeks and plays Dungeons and Dragons with them.

SPOILER ALERT

Johnny Depp and someone else from 21 Jump Street not named Richard Grieco, make cameo appearances. I won’t say how or when, but it occurs, and it is with their original characters (kind of). Johnny Depp is talking with some strange accent that definitely was not used when he was on 21 Jump Street, or by Depp at all in the 1980s. It was closer to Jack Sparrow-talk than 1980s Johnny Depp talk. Just as I suspect Miley Cyrus would have permanently become Hannah Montana if that show wasn’t cancelled, I suspect Johnny Depp after all of his eccentric roles does not know who he is anymore.

END SPOILER ALERT

Overall, this movie seems to have recycled a lot of characters and elements from other movies and television shows. However, it acknowledges that, does not take itself too seriously, and looks at itself as kind of a parody movie. And it is very funny and entertaining, and has a cast full of awesome comic actors. I enjoyed it, and I would recommend it. In the spirit for A Night at the Roxbury, I give 21 Jump Street three out of four “Emilioooooooooo”s.

(That’s a Grade: B)

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