Back in my formative years drugs were depicted the devil’s tool. Kirk Cameron would warn you at the end of an episode of Growing Pains that even one toke of marijuana could kill you. First Lady Nancy Reagan showed up on a very special episode of Diff’rent Strokes to warn kids that drugs would stunt your growth and of course there was 21 Jump Street. On this show undercover cops would infiltrate high schools and put the hurt on teenage drug sellers and users. At the end of every episode one of the actors would make a public service announcement warning of the perils of drugs.
Being old enough to remember the original 1980’s show it was odd to see the 2012 movie adaptation of 21 Jump Street where drugs are glamorized as more fun than pudding wrestling. The show follows the same plot as the television show. Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill play young looking cops who go undercover in a high school to stop the spread of a new drug. But they portray the drug as looking like a lot of fun without any long term side effects which thoroughly confused me. It was like in high school when the hard-core burn-outs would proudly wear their black DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) t-shirts as they got high to their heart’s content. What was up is down. Now pop culture is telling me drugs are fun?
Well kind of.
I was looking forward to seeing this movie. The previews had 21 Jump Street looking hilarious, but unfortunately the bits shown in that one minute promo are the only funny parts of the movie. There are some laughs, but many of the jokes fall flat. Then there’s the emphasis on the relationship between Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill. The filmmakers couldn’t decide if they were really attracted to one another or not, so you have Jonah Hill falling in love with a jailbait student, while more screen time is spent having him learn to cherish his partnership with Channing Tatum
I guess buddy cop movies have always been fraught with homoerotic undercurrents, but the lack of thought put into depicting the protagonists’ sexualities is emblematic of the whole movie. No research is put into fact checking the movie. The movie depicts high school in 2012 as being radically different from when Jonah Hill went to high school in 2005, but when they portray 2005 they have Hill trying to look like Eminem which is so 1999.
Much worse is that many of the jokes aren’t well thought out and seem improvised. I know it’s been the comedy rage for a few years for characters to go on absurd, vulgar, inappropriate rants, but that schtick’s really not funny. It makes me long for the snappy patter between Arnold and Mr. Drummond even if it was served with a dose of anti-drug propaganda.