Film Reviews: 21 Jump Street and John Carter (of Mars)

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 20th March 2012.

Despite being an aficionado of all things eighties, I must admit that I have never watched a whole episode of 21 Jump Street. I do remember how every episode ended though. The gang would be back at the station following a successful mission. Someone cracks a joke. Everyone laughs, there’s a freeze frame and then the end credits roll, complete with the Stephen J. Cannell closing logo. I must have been a big fan of the show that followed.  I’m not sure what it was. I’m thinking it may have been the craptacular Manimal or Knight Rider.

21 Jump Street is the latest in a long line of TV adaptations for the big screen. Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the team responsible for Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, have taken the show’s title and basic premise to create an outrageous buddy action comedy in the vein of Bad Boys that will satisfy anyone who prefers their jokes blue and isn’t offended by copious amounts of coarse language.

The flick stars former model turned “actor” Channing Tatum (G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, The Vow) and the newly slimmed down Oscar nominee Jonah Hill (Superbad, Moneyball) as recent police academy graduates who are sent back to high school undercover to investigate a drug ring. Of course, neither character wants to relive their traumatic high school years.

Not every joke hits its mark but the cracking pace of the film means that you will hardly notice. Tatum and Hill have great comedy chemistry and the supporting cast, led by a foul mouthed Ice Cube, all get a chance to shine. I don’t think that it is a coincidence that most of the actors cast as students are clearly too old to be at school.

A very unique car chase and hilarious cameos from original stars Peter DeLuise, Holly Robinson and Johnny Depp are worth the price of admission alone. 21 Jump Street is highly recommended.

Throughout the eighties and nineties, Disney utilised its other studio imprints such as Hollywood Pictures to release films with non-family friendly aspects such as nudity and violence. Lately, they’ve become more liberal and happily released their swashbuckling cash cow Pirates of the Caribbean saga under the Disney label. John Carter, with its battle scenes and alien decapitations, is the latest film from the “House of Mouse.”

Known throughout production as John Carter of Mars, the title was shortened after market research showed that the word “Mars” might turn off moviegoers who don’t like science fiction. I’d suggest that the movie poster and trailer, which both feature the red planet prominently, might also be clues.

Directed by Andrew Stanton, the man behind Wall-E and Finding Nemo, John Carter stars the serviceable Taylor Kitsch (Friday Night Lights) as the titular Civil War veteran who wakes up on the surface of Mars with super strength (different gravity and bone density, you see) and finds himself embroiled in a four way battle between the native inhabitants.

Many of the set pieces are direct knockoffs from iconic sci-fi movies such as the Star Wars franchise but considering that Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote the John Carter books 100 years ago, it’s pretty hard to know who inspired who.

Much has been made of the film’s mega budget (US $250 million) and poor box office showing so far ($42 million over eight days with a 59% drop off on its second weekend), but don’t believe the hype. Despite an overcomplicated and confusing storyline, the visuals are fantastic and the retro-fitted 3D compliments the alien landscapes. This is the closest you’ll get to a live action Pixar film.

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Published in: on March 26, 2012 at 07:35  Leave a Comment  
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