'21 Jump Street' a surprising summertime comedyJuly 9, 2012
By G. Michael Dobbs
This week in the DVD column is a movie from which I didn't expect much and a stand-up comic who delivered his signature goods.
21 Jump Street
The trend in Hollywood for the last decade or so is to strip mine the popular culture of the last 40 years to obtain properties and titles that are pre-sold to various demographic groups.
The corporate types would tell you this is just good businesses sense, especially if the company already owned the property.
The creative types would probably disagree, but they are seldom in charge.
That's why the string of "Transformers" movies have been made, why "The Green Hornet" was treated to a horrible up-dating and undoubtedly why "21 Jump Street" has made it to the big screen in a comedy starring Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum.
My wife, my brother visiting from Virginia and I had little doubt that this latest re-boot of the 1980s television series would be another disaster, but we were all surprised as it was actually funny and clever.
The original television show featured a bunch of actors who played cops young enough to pass for teens. That premise has been maintained, but what has been added is a great twist: what if the undercover cops were confused about how high school culture has changed?
Hill plays a guy who was a nerd in school while Tatum played the popular jock/bully. Their assignment at a local high school to find out who is making a deadly new drug challenges their expectations. Being a nerd is cool now, while being a privileged jock is not.
These differences put strain on the team's friendship and complicate their law enforcement skills, which are not highly developed.
From the flashback sequence to the profanity-laced moments with their commanding officer (played by Ice Cube), this film is consistently funny.
It's good to see Hill branch out a bit in his roles, undoubtedly due in part to his weight loss. He has the makings of a being a solid character actor. Tatum is also effective, although his is more of a supporting role.
For summer-time fare, "21 Jump Street" fits the bill. And be sure to watch for some cool cameo appearances if you were a fan of the TV show.
Bobcat: You Don't Look the Same Either
The 1980s saw the rise of the stand-up comedian from being a supporting act to someone whose work could be the basis of a television series. Comics found themselves being used as character actors and as voice performers in animation.
Few were as busy as Bobcat Goldthwait, who appeared as a stand-up, a voice in Disney cartoons, an actor and a director.
Although he had retired from stand-up in the past, this new hour-long appearance shows that he is still one of the most original, dark and daring comics around.
Goldthwait's comedy is not for everyone, but this new set isn't as confrontational as ones he performed years ago. He refers to chapters from his many years in show business including his setting the guest's chair on "The Tonight Show" on fire with a degree of self-amusement and "What was I thinking?"
Still much of his material is quite dark and for that I'll warn people. Goldthwait is not as warm and fuzzy as much as he is sharp and prickly.
I do like that sort of humor and if you remember Goldthwait's material from years ago, I don't think you'll be disappointed.