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SXSW 2012 Review - "21 Jump Street" (Wake Me Up When It's Over)

Reviews
by Tambay A. Obenson
March 15, 2012 3:37 PM
9 Comments
  • |

I’ll just keep this short and sweet and say that the movie just wasn’t for me; others in the audience seemed to really love it though, laughing at every little joke – and not just laughing, but laughing accompanied by screaming, fist pounding, feet kicking, cackling and much more.

Maybe it was just the energy of the environment we were in – a large theater, SXSW, close to night-time; maybe a few had some liquor in them, maybe a few took some hits before entering the theater… or maybe they just loved it and I didn’t, and it’s as simple as that.

I wouldn’t consider myself much of a fan of Jonah Hill nor Channing Tatum, so strike 1 came before I even entered the theater; that and the fact that the initial multi-culturalism that I think many appreciated about the original TV series is pretty much nullified in this film adaptation, as is the concept of "team." Just call it the Hill and Tatum show, because that’s what it is, with lots of silly, juvenile comedy that I’m sure college frat boy-types will love.

Strike 2 happened about 15 or 20 minutes in when Ice Cube’s undercover unit commander character was introduced. I get it; his exaggerated stereotypes were intentional and not to be at all taken seriously. His character even references the fact that he IS a walking stereotype – loud, gruff, and physical; Standard characteristics of your typical studio movie police chief/commander/whatever. Like said, I got it. But I still didn’t care for any of it. Ice Cube isn’t exactly what I’d call a good actor (in my humble opinion). His caricaturing was supposed to be funny, but I just found it all rather annoying.

It’s tough to isolate when strike 3 happens, because there’s a lot I didn’t like about this flick (more than I actually liked), like comedian DeRay Davis as Domingo, a street tough, bike-riding, tatooed drug dealer; but I’ll settle on all the friggin’ slo-mo shots (I recall at least one with doves flying out of a limo, as our leads exited it, *hot chicks* in tow).

Yeah, it’s that kind of movie; and some (maybe many) will probably have tons of fun watching it, and maybe I’m getting too old for this shit.

Sure, I did laugh a few times, genuinely; a grin or smile here and there as well; but for much of the film’s running time, I was bored, and just wanted it to end.

It's probably best screened with a rowdy crowd; I can see how all that pomp and circumstance could be infectious.

There are cameos, as you already should know, by Holly Robinson-Peete (although if you blinked, you’d miss her in it), as well as Johnny Depp (no surprise that he gets the most significant cameo appearance) and Peter DeLuise. Each cameo was met with cheers from the audience, as you’d expect; I was pleased to see Holly; although I wish she'd have been given a little more to do. She's on screen for literally 5 seconds; compare that to the blaze of glory Depp's character goes out in, after a chunky speech. But this is at the bottom of my list of quarrels with the movie.

I just found it dull and uninteresting; nothing particularly fresh; no risk; no ambition. 

Calling it 21 Jump Street is meaningless here. I understand the marketing opportunities using the name of the original series provides, but, really, there are few similarities between the original TV series and the film. Gone is the police procedural crime drama; instead, meet infantile, shallow, predictable drivel that’ll likely do very well at the box office when it opens this weekend.

Not that the original series was high-brow/must-see television, but I figured any remake of it in the 21st century would at least be far more ambitious than this tired bit of recycling.

Checking RottenTomatoes.com, I’m in the tiny minority here, as 87% of reviews thus far give the film a thumbs up.

Bah-humbug! Just call me Scrooge.

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9 Comments

  • Charles Judson | March 17, 2012 1:01 AMReply

    Saw it with 3 friends. I and one of them laughed our asses off. The other two, one white the other Asian were mostly bored. I think it works. But that's why a film festival director I know picks everything but comedy by himself. He always asks others to weigh in. 21 does run out of steam as the third act comes around, but by that time its either earned enough good will you keep going, or you wish it would end sooner.

  • my2cents | March 16, 2012 3:24 PMReply

    Just my 2 cents, but has anybody grown tired of Channing Tatum's "wannabe" vocal inflection and wooden acting

  • BONDGIRL | March 15, 2012 7:00 PMReply

    I saw the trailer for this garbage before watching Safe House...you're right, the audience (mostly white) was cackling away at the stupidity. I'd be shocked if it didn't come in at No. 1. smh

  • ChgoSista | March 15, 2012 6:55 PMReply

    I am praying to the Almighty that my 14y.o. nephew doesn't want me to take him to see this...

  • Charles Judson | March 15, 2012 4:41 PMReply

    I must be mis-remembering the show. I don't really remember it being all that diverse. Folks of color were there, but that never felt that essential to the show except when it was part of a "special" episode. It was a show for teenagers and teenage girls. It's a template show that networks have used to either get their start or meet a niche not served by other networks that The WB, UPN and CW have all replicated. It's one of those shows that reflects Hollywood's strange approach to diversity in the 1980s and 1990s. Remember all those films that had L.A. gangs that were Black, White and generic Hispanic, in stark contrast to reality where most gangs broke along racial and cultural lines. As such, it wasn't all that shocking, nor personally bothersome that the film has two white leads. I would expect a New York Undercover update to be much more diverse as a diverse New York was an explicit part of the world they created. But, as it's a comedy set in a high school and the power of opposites is a comedy rule that holds true, why wouldn't they have defaulted to, even slimmed down, still shlubby Hill and good looking to lots of women (and men) Tatum? So to speak to Mischa's points, you'd need a current Holly Robinson-Peete surrogate that can pass as a high school student and play opposite of another actor and do comedy. Name a Black actress who has demonstrated her comedy chops and can pass as a High School student? At the end of the day, we need to create roles so young actresses can show off what they can do that will lead to being considered for bigger parts. When FEW actors of color have been given the opportunity to build the track record of a Tatum or a Hill, that should be our biggest concern. We can wish for more inclusion, but if you haven't gotten to even play in the minors, it's hard to get called up to the majors. To extend the sports metaphor, we can create those minors. Baseball, basketball, etc. They all exist because a bunch of dudes started teams, informally got together, eventually made it formal, some guy realized he could make money with the team, some other guys realized they could make even more money, and boom, decades later they were big business and culturally relevant. Some (note, some, not all) of our problems aren't at the top, they're at the bottom.

  • Vanessa | March 15, 2012 3:58 PMReply

    I keep forgetting that I saw this.. *shrug*

    "maybe a few had some liquor in them, maybe a few took some hits before entering the theater."

    Absolutely. It's totally a stoner film.

  • Mischa | March 15, 2012 3:56 PMReply

    They lost me when I heard that they got rid of the original black female cop character and replaced her with a white one. Can a sister ever have SOMETHING up in this piece? Damn!

    The character that Holly Robinson played back in the original was part of what made the show awesome - bunch of good looking, young, multi ethnic cops fighting crime. Hell, that was also the first time I got to see an Asian person as a regular, non stereotypical character on a show. Cool. So sick of Hollywood trying to white-ify everything they get their hands on. They won't even let the M&M's in those damn commercials be brown like the chocolate they are. The legs and arms are white to show that they're "white" M&Ms underneath the shell. Okay....I'm off on a whole other tangent/rant now. Done ... :)

    Once they changed the Holly R. character during filming, I began my own personal boycott of this piece. Not surprised that they barely gave her any screen time in her cameo, either. We're only supposed to focus on the white chicks, right? All the damn time.

  • blaqbird | March 15, 2012 10:52 PM

    LOL!!! Yeah I pretty agree w/you, Mischa. I was just too through when they replaced Holly's character w/a white girl. And what is her name? Not one review I read even mentions her!!!!

  • HarveyDent | March 15, 2012 6:01 PM

    You had me at the beginning but cinched if for me with the M&M's...funny but sad

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