With more and more movies that open on Fridays actually open Thursday night, Friday Flashbacks are now Thursday Throwbacks. Plus, I can steal that sweet ass hashtag!
This week, I looked at “21 Jump Street” and “22 Jump Street” because “Baywatch” so desperately and obviously is trying to make itself in that mold as it jumps to the big screen. I don’t remember either 21 or 22’s trailers being quite so gay panic-y, I grant you, but perhaps I’m just misremembering that.
Anyway, we all love the Rock (opinions on gender issues aside) and Zac Efron has proven to be a surprising comedic talent (think the “Neighbors” movies, don’t about the “That Awkward Moment” franchise) so, who knows, maybe they’ll pull it off. I know I was not that optimistic about “21 Jump Street” and….well, let’s just get to the review then, shall we?
21 JUMP STREET & 22 JUMP STREET
I was going to start out here saying that these 2 movies are better than they have any right to be. While that is true, it is damning with faint praise. It’s like saying, after years of avoiding them, that McDonald’s cheeseburgers do not taste so bad. True, perhaps, but it undercuts the fact that these two movies are not just good for being remakes of a 20-something year old TV series, they are straight up good comedies.
McDonald’s cheeseburgers, however, remain just surprisingly not terrible.
A huge amount of this can be laid at the altar of chemistry. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum as the high school victim and bully turned mismatched undercover partners, of course, are the headliners on that. However, it does not stop there. Brie Larson, Ellie Kemper, Caroline Aaron (in 21), Amber Stevens (no relation), Jillian Bell, Wyatt Russell, Jimmy Tatro (in 22), Ice Cube, Dave Franco, and Rob Riggle (in both) all bring great chemistry to their interactions with the protagonists.
The script does the rest. Self-aware but not too cool for the premise, it is smart enough to present a different version of high school (although one still very much fiction) than most movies would, allowing Hill’s Schmidt to become the cool guy and the naturally charismatic, carved from the finest marble Tatum’s Jenko to be the outcast who can’t seem to get the new social norms right.
Some of that zing goes out of 22 as they shift roles—Jenko finding his place, Schmidt feeling left behind—as it is familiar as both a film view of college and as a mirror of the first movie. However, once more, the script and chemistry remain top notch even if the plot does not feel as—well surprising is not quite the right word but surprising adjacent perhaps.
After TV remakes like The Brady Bunch or Starsky & Hutch who could not find a way to engage their source material in any way but satire (note: not a bad thing in those cases, just acknowledging that truth), the Jump Streets finding humor while largely embracing the strangeness of the source premise—minus some jokes about their aged appearances—is borderline impressive.
Depending on reviews—which so far look not good at all—you may want to skip Baywatch and just take these in as a double feature.