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Hill’s Raucous ‘Jump Street’; ‘Delicacy’: Movies

March 17, 2012

Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum in ``21 Jump Street.'' The film is in theaters across the U.S. Photographer: Scott Garfield/Sony Pictures Entertainment via Bloomberg

Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum in ``21 Jump Street.'' The film is in theaters across the U.S. Photographer: Scott Garfield/Sony Pictures Entertainment via Bloomberg

Johnny Depp’s star-making teen cop show from the 1980s gets just the love it deserves in the big- screen “21 Jump Street.”

Which is to say, very little.

Irreverent, crude and funnier than you might expect, “21 Jump Street” isn’t so much a send-up of ‘80s cop shows as a send-up of movies that send-up ‘80s cop shows.

Starring Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, “21 Jump Street” easily trumps other film adaptations of lousy TV shows (“Miami Vice,” “Charlie’s Angels”). Low expectations have their advantages.

Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, with Michael Bacall’s by-turns clever and crass script, “Jump” has Hill and Tatum as a pair of inept rookie cops posing as high school students to bust a drug ring.

Through a first-day mix-up, Tatum’s dimwitted, hunky Jenko is placed in a nerd-filled advanced class, while the rotund Hill’s Schmidt is touted as a talented jock.

Bacall’s script toys with our expectations in other ways, too, slamming what passed for cool not so long ago. The undercover cops drive onto the student parking lot in a “Starsky and Hutch“-type muscle car, only to have their egos deflated by the eco-friendly hipsters at the top of the high school food chain.

“I totally know the cause,” Tatum’s lunkhead says after his homophobic bravado is derided by the popular kids. “’Glee.’”

Dave Franco (James’s younger brother, and a star in the making) is terrific as the school’s politically correct drug dealer, and Ice Cube steals scenes as the perpetually angry police captain (“Embrace your stereotypes!” he screams).

Depp’s well-publicized cameo (no spoilers here about when or how) is a hoot, and almost compensates for the movie’s self- indulgences -- tedious chase scenes, an unfunny drama club production and some maudlin, late-act speechifying.

“21 Jump Street,” from Sony Pictures Entertainment, is playing across the U.S. Rating: **1/2 (Evans)

‘Delicacy’

“Delicacy” is a French comedy of such surpassing banality that it’s almost impossible to dislike.

One day Nathalie (Audrey Tautou), a workaholic widow high up in her company’s hierarchy, finds herself, for no reason she can ever explain, passionately kissing a Swedish co-worker, Markus (Francois Damiens) -- the office dork.

Markus is astonished, and the movie’s few original moments involve his pained resistance. He can’t believe that a magnificent dynamo like Nathalie could fall for him.

I couldn’t either, and neither can anyone else in the film except for Nathalie’s wise old grandma. The lovers don’t have any visible chemistry, and Markus is so abject (he tells Nathalie he feels like he’s Lichtenstein dating the U.S.) that he would throw cold water on any passion.

Too Sweet

That wasn’t all I couldn’t believe. The movie starts, execrably, with the meeting-cute of Nathalie and the love of her life, Francois (the gorgeous Pio Marmai), followed by their adorable courtship and marriage. These sugary scenes nearly kill the movie before it begins, but at least they’re swift, and then, thank God, Francois dies.

As Markus, Damiens is very good, and he really does look like a dork -- he’s got some of the worst hair I’ve ever seen on an actor’s head.

Even without chemistry, he and Tautou are likable, and the French stereotypes who fill out the rest of the movie -- the oily married boss who’s hot for Nathalie, the kindly grandmother who has soup on the stove the minute you knock on her door --are somehow reassuring in their familiarity.

The whole thing could have and probably should have been leaden, but the directors, David and Stephane Foenkinos, have a delicate touch, and I’m ashamed to admit how completely suckered I was. Go at the risk of your own embarrassment.

“Delicacy,” a Cohen Media Group release, is playing in New York. Rating: **1/2 (Seligman)

‘Detachment’

Sandwiched between an opening quotation from Albert Camus and an ending that calls on Edgar Allan Poe, director Tony Kaye lards his pretentious “Detachment” with a gruesomely murdered cat, a beat-up teenage prostitute, a dying, demented old man and a high school suicide.

With all the subtlety of fingernails on a classroom chalkboard, “Detachment,” written by former school teacher Carl Lund, is a broadside against the U.S. education system and the gloom of modern life in general.

Kaye, the eccentric British director who simultaneously arrived and flamed out with 1998’s ugly “American History X,” funnels his dystopia into this tale of a New York City substitute teacher (Adrien Brody) struggling to break through the apathy and violence of a public high school.

Parents scream, teens threaten, and teachers succumb to either fury or depression in one nasty encounter after another, until poor Marcia Gay Harden, as an embattled principal, is reduced to mewling her morning P.A. announcements while in a fetal position on the floor. I knew how she felt.

“Detachment,” from Tribeca Film, is playing in New York. Rating: * (Evans)


What the Stars Mean:

**** Excellent
*** Good
** Average
* Poor
(No stars) Worthless

(Greg Evans is a critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer on the story: Greg Evans at gregeaevans@yahoo.com.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff in New York at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.


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