Art & Culture

The only trouble with deconstructing bromance action movies is that it's been done before. Think of Hot Fuzz and The Other Guys and ask yourself if this is any better? Answer. No. For those of you who were either not around in the 80s, or, like me, not watching American sitcoms, a brief recap. 21 Jump St was a long running TV series in which undercover cops went back to school to sort out criminal problems. It would probably have been long forgotten were it not for the fact that a young Johnny Depp first made his name in it.

So, rather like Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson in Starsky & Hutch, Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are not so much recreating old moments, as parodying them, or least paying homage by being rude. This involves a certain amount of rather self conscious modernism. For example, Ice Cube, playing an angry black police captain, refers to the fact that he's a stereotype, and at another point, another captain makes a very obvious allusion to Hollywood's tendency to drag out old TV corpses and remake them as movies. But all the clever or not so clever allusions in the world don't deal with once central question. Is the film funny? To be honest – not very.

Hill and Tatum were worlds apart at school; one was a successful brainless jock, the other an overweight smartass loser (guess which was which). But they've joined the police and are able to build an alliance based on filling the gaps that the other lacks, which leaves them being best bromance buddies. However, life in uniform proves to be less exciting than they had hoped, and when an arrest goes wrong, they are dumped in Jump St and sent back to school, to investigate a drugs ring. Not that the plot is of any great significance. The film is mainly an excuse for taking the piss out of movie conventions.

A principal gag is that school is no longer the way it used to be. Jocks are out, nerds and swots are in. So Hill becomes popular, while Tatum's strong arm tactics are frowned on. Then, in a further reversal, they end up in the wrong roles. Hill has to be the athlete and actor, while Tatum is stuck in science with nerds. It's an OK gag, but it is milked dry throughout the film, and becomes increasingly less funny. Another problem is that the difference between the films they are parodying and this film is paper thin. A car chase is still a car chase even when it aspires to postmodernism. Ditto explosions and parties when the parents come home early.

And the script has a mechanical feel about it. One of the reasons I liked The Other Guys last Year (starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg) was that it had a wild anarchic energy about it, so you never quite knew where it was going; while Hot Fuzz had the advantage of being English and smart. 21 Jump St is never as clever as it pretends to be. It relies on a lot of effing and blinding and an endless amount of dick jokes. It's hard to talk about this without sounding prudish, but the OTT swearing and sex thing has already been done. The Inbetweeners and Bridesmaids were as potty-mouthed as you like, but they were funny. This film strains hard for hilarity but mainly ends up with mild chuckles. The main plus is the combination of Hill and Tatum, the latter of whom shows an unexpected talent for comedy. But the film as a whole is nothing special.


Phil Raby

Front Row Films

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