Jumping to the 21st Century: ’21 Jump Street’ is Comedic Genius

Two cops who pedal bicycles after a tough-looking biker gang of 1 percenters in the city park. Cops who don’t know how to recite the Miranda Rights word-for-word upon making their first arrest. Their only redeeming quality is that they look young, like they just got out of school (or in Channing Tatum’s character’s case, he looks like he might have flunked out a few years).

“21 Jump Street” is ridiculous, but that is part of the appeal. When reviving a classic late ’80s, early ’90s television series like “21 Jump Street” and adapting it to the silver screen in the twenty-first century, you have to update with the times. Sure, kids are still getting into booze, drugs, gangs and other shady business. But kids are also texting, YouTubing, Facebooking and plugging into the Twitterverse.

Michael Bacall’s screenplay adaption of Patrick Hasburg and Stephen J. Cannell’s television series canon features a new duo of awkward, bumbling cops going undercover in high schools: Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Tatum). Their challenges include blending into the new social hierarchy of modern day high school: one where the popular kids are gay, tolerable, accepting and environmentalists and the nerds are still the ones building rocket ships on the lawn.

Hill and Tatum have great chemistry and bromance together, striking an unlikely friendship. It’s comical watching Tatum cheerlead Hill’s character as he tries to overcome the physical obstacles of the police academy test while Hill tutors Tatum’s character on the written portion of the exam. In another scene the two are seen fingering each other’s mouths, trying to get each other to throw up in a bathroom stall.

Bacall’s script also does much to poke fun at the original TV series. The nondescript rundown chapel on Jump Street that was home base for the undercover program features a rather prominent Korean Jesus. Captain Dickson (Ice Cube), who runs the undercover camp, isn’t subtle about why the crew is there: “You are here because you some Justin Beaver, Miley Cirus lookin’ muthas.”

And the best parts: Undercover Officer Tom Hanson (Johnny Depp) makes a cameo and the promise of a sequel.

“21 Jump Street” was produced by Phil Lord and Chris Miller. The story was written by Michael Bacall and Jonah Hill.


Save a tree, Ride the ‘Lorax’

Hanging out with the Lorax at Universal Studios.

We grew up with Sam I Am, Horton the Elephant, the Grinch who stole Christmas and the Lorax. These classic characters from the Dr. Seuss canon brought us lessons like to try new things (like green eggs and ham), that “a person’s a person, no matter how small” and the joy of Christmas. In the case of the Lorax, we learned about conservation: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.

Directors Chris Renaud and Kyle Balda’s new movie “Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax” may embellish the story we know and love with catchy tunes, 3-D animation and celebrity voiceovers from young stars such as Zac Efron and Taylor Swift as well as comedic voices such as those of Ed Helms, Betty White  and Danny DeVito — but the core message remains the same.

We need trees.

Luckily, we have the Lorax, who speaks for the trees. Luckily for us, he’s in 3-D.

Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul’s screenplay adaption of Dr. Seuss’s popular book follows a boy (Zac Efron) in love with a girl (Taylor Swift) who wants a tree in a world that real trees don’t exist. On his quest to please his crush, he meets the Once-ler (Ed Helms), who recounts his tale. Daurio and Paul’s screenplay humanizes the Once-ler character as a boy with a guitar who wanted to pleased his family. Helms, known for his role as Andy in the TV comedy series “The Office,” brings over his singing and guitar playing skills (but not his dancing) to this 3-D animated film. In a flashback re-telling of the story of the trees, a young Once-ler is spotted singing catchy tunes such as “This is the Place” and “How Bad Can I Be.”

Co-directors Balda and Renaud, both known for working on “Despicable Me,” adopted some of the graphics and animation style to “Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax.” Fans of “Despicable Me” will notice that the movie’s antagonist, Mr. O’Hare (Rob Riggle), is similar to the character design of the villain Vector: nerdy with dark hair. The Brown Bar-ba-loots, Swomee-Swans, Humming-Fish and other Dr. Seuss critters living in the Truffula tree forest are just as adorable as the minions from “Despicable Me” — their antics just as comical and endearing. In one scene, the Lorax and his forest minions are seen taking over the Once-ler’s tent — eating all the butter in the fridge and sleeping in his bed.

Although the Lorax is nothing like “Wall-E,” Disney Pixar’s animated, similarly-themed film which also demonstrates the importance of trees (especially in the world of capitalism), “Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax” shows promise in bringing the magic of Theodor Seuss Geisel to life. With eye-popping animation, a potpourri of color and catchy tunes, “Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax” is a cute, charming and enjoyable film with a good moral. But was it worth the $16 to see it in 3-D? I think Dr. Seuss would have liked you to save a tree instead.