21 Jump Street
Directed by: Chris Miller, Phil Lord. Starring: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube, Brie Larson. Cert: 15A.
For a film that combines several tired old tricks – the high school movie, the buddy cop film, the TV show adaptation – 21 Jump Street is a surprisingly enjoyable comedy, a humorous take on the teen cop drama series that gave young Johnny Deep a big leg up, all of 25 years ago.
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as Schmidt and Jenko, a pair of police academy graduates whose first job on bike patrol doesn’t exactly provide the kind of thrills they were hoping for. When the beat inevitably goes bad, the boys end up assigned to the precinct at 21 Jump Street, where new boss Captain Dickson (Ice Cube) is running an undercover high school program resurrected from the Eighties.
There’s a new drug doing the rounds, so Schmidt and Jenko are sent back to school, where they try to root out the teenage dealers. But mostly they’re reliving their high school years, and discovering that, even though school is a whole different planet now, it isn’t any better the second time around. Which is what we’ve suspected for years, those of us who left school round about the time that 21 Jump Street was new, but who still wake up from nightmares about teachers and unfinished homework. And then, because human nature is beyond understanding, we turn around and send our own children off to enjoy the same experience.
Screenwriters Jonah Hill and Michael Bacall hit all the standard gags here, but the laughs are more frequent than they might have been in lesser hands. They have a lot of fun contrasting what was cool then and now, a game parents of teenage kids will know too well. The writers are aware, too. that the movie’s main idea is dumb, that these guys are way too old to pass off as school kids. So there’s a running gag about their age, and how the actors in high school movies are clearly far too old for their parts. The only misstep the writers make is veering a tad too close to the dreaded bromance genre, so beloved of Hollywood’s new generation of softies.
It helps that the cast is up to the task. Hill’s comic credentials are well established, and he doesn’t veer far from the kind of character he does so well. But Channing Tatum, a man who has shown no sign up to now that he can act beyond the Keanu Reeves range, shows an unexpectedly decent talent for comedy. Ice Cube hams it up frantically as the police chief, Brie Larson does a nice job as the obligatory prom girl, and there’s an uncredited appearance by the old star of the show.
The film’s directors, Chris Miller and Phil Lord, the team behind the underrated animated feature, Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs. They’ve made a fine transition to live action film, though they haven’t left their talent for animation on the floor, putting it to great use in a party scene where a certain recreational substance provides vivid hallucinations.
You didn’t find much of that in teenage TV shows in the Eighties. Or back in my day, as I have heard myself say on a few too many occasions.
The Devil Inside
Directed by: William Brent Bell. Starring: Fernanda Andrade, Simon Quarterman, Evan Helmuth. Cert: 16.
There’s probably a fine movie to be made that shares its title with a top ten hit by INXS. But The Devil Inside is not it. And there’s definitely a good movie to be made about why the church at large no longer appears to take demonic possession seriously, seeing as how Jesus spent a fair amount of his time casting out bothersome devils. But again, this is not that film. In fact, it would be charitable to even call this terrible thing a film at all.
Playing like a cross between the Paranormal films and The Exorcist, it follows a young woman named Isabella (Andrade) on a trip to Italy, where her mother is confined to a mental institution. Back in 1989, Mammy went homicidal and got herself locked away, under the care of the holy church. She claims the devil made her do it, and Isabella is going to find out the truth. There’s a camera man on hand to document it all, and a couple of priests who don’t mind bending the rules to carry out the good Lord’s work, with a helping hand from some nifty high-tech gadgets. Because, hey, the Bible and holy water are so 1975.
The found-footage, faux documentary genre is a bit threadbare now, and something pretty special is required to make it work. The Devil Inside brings nothing to the table but an old idea played very badly, from the poor writing to the amateur acting, to the tired and tedious scenes of contorted limbs that we’ve seen in a hundred better films. To top it all off, the film has no ending. It just, well, stops.
If The Devil Inside has anything worthwhile to offer, it’s the unintentional laughs. But then, having raked in 50 times its budget since opening in the States in January, the lads at Insurge Pictures will be laughing for a good while yet.