Here’s the deal: everyone laughed (and not in the good way) when they heard that Jonah Hill’s 21 Jump Street reboot would have its premiere at SXSW four days before its nationwide rollout. This is a fest for indies, goddamit! We’re hear to see heart-rending tales about reuniting with lost parents or putting puppies to sleep; quirky romances and gore-tastic slashers. But a bro-mantic reboot? Gimme a break.
Turns out it was a brilliant move by Columbia Pictures’ marketing department because this crowd is absolutely smitten with the film, and we’re telling the world about it. Sorry, starving filmmaker who maxed out three credit cards over six years to get here, we’re going to cover the glossy Hollywood picture because, well, it’s good!
The best way to explain what makes the film such a charmer is with an anecdote Jonah Hill shared at the Q & A after the premiere. He recounted his agent calling him up years ago to suggest turning the forgotten television series into a movie. His response was something to the effect of, “That’s the stupidest fucking idea I’ve ever heard.” That cavalier attitude runs deep throughout the irreverent comedy. There is even a line of dialogue in there that admits the powers that be have run out of ideas.
In short, Hill and co-star Channing Tatum play Schmidt and Jenko, two bumbling cops and unlikely pals assigned to an undercover assignment in a local high school to root out a drug dealer. The script, written by Michael Bacall (Jonah Hill shares a story credit with Bacall), takes advantage of this silly setup by taking things to their obvious extremes. The two cops throw the most insane kegger in high school movie history because, well, if you got to go back to high school with a valid ID, wouldn’t you?
Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller smoothly enter the world of live-action filmmaking (their last film was Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs). It’s perhaps no surpise that the guys who violently rained oversized steak dinners on unsuspecting Atlantic islanders would make a film filled to the brim with excess. It is, in a word, ridiculous. There are out of place explosions, talking ice-cream cones, and deaths and dismemberments that will have you rolling in the aisles, and you’ll quickly lose count of the expletives.
Still, there is something very genuine in the characterizations of the insecure nerd (Hill, obviously) and the vacuous glass of muscle milk (do I have to tell you who that is?). Perhaps I am taken by this film because there are almost no comedies at the multiplexes right now, and it’s been awhile since I’ve laughed that hard.
I often wonder whether or not we find much to love in a film like this because the bar has been lowered so far that anything that makes us titter is worthy of praise. But you know what? Fuck that. I laughed my ass off at 21 Jump Street and the Austin crowd loved it too. It’s about damn time someone cheered us up at the movies.