Sunday, March 25, 2012

21 Jump Street

Date: March 22, 2012
Time: 7:40 pm
Place: Tinsel Town
Company: Derrick
Food: large mixed red and blue Icee
Running Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes
Rating: R
Director: Phil Lord, Chris Miller

Quick Impressions:
I think I like Dave Franco better than James Franco (which is easy since I don’t particularly like James Franco). But isn’t it weird that Dave Franco always seems to play a high school student when he’s almost twenty-seven years old? I mean, honestly, he’s only two years younger than Jonah Hill! They were in high school together in Superbad! But that’s not really important. The goal of the movie is clearly not gritty realism.

Dave Franco aside, I’ve been looking forward to 21 Jump Street for a long time, basically because the preview looked funny. (For what seems an eternity, I’ve read about Jonah Hill’s love of 21 Jump Street and his zeal to get the movie made, but you can never be sure if someone will succeed in making us love his passion project as much as he does until you’ve seen a preview—or in the case of Pixar films, the movie itself.)

My family never watched the late 80s TV show, but I’m positive I saw at least a portion of one episode when I was about nine. Mainly I remember someone sitting on the hood of a car, somebody in a skull cap, and two guys getting into a fight while sitting in school desks. Basically, what I know about 21 Jumpstreet is Johnny Depp, learned after the fact. So if you’re a die-hard fan of the show, you might get more or less out of the movie than I did.

Going in with basically no background in the world of 21 Jump Street, I thought the movie was consistently entertaining and often very funny. I enjoyed watching it the entire time it was on screen and left the theater with a very pleasant feeling.

The Good:
When we went to see this movie, I was incredibly worried about something unrelated, and the movie was so entertaining, I managed to forget all about that while it was on the screen. That’s high praise from someone who can easily become completely unglued from anxiety.

Even though there is an actual police operation going on involving drugs, death, and other serious elements, the movie is first and foremost a comedy. Still, there’s quite a bit of action and even a decent amount of heart. The emotional journey of Schmidt and Jenko—adult friends forced to go back to high school where they were about the farthest thing from friends—is interesting in its own right. Watching the geekie high school loser Schmidt suddenly find acceptance from the cool kids is surprisingly engaging and entertaining. Even better is seeing once popular Jenko realizing that suddenly nobody popular likes him—and for no good reason. For the most part, this movie makes smart choices even at moments when it could have settled for the brainless way out and still performed decently. You can tell that this was a movie made by people who wanted it to be good. It is good.

Best Surprise:
I remember reading that Johnny Depp had agreed to do a cameo, and reading again that he had finished filming it, so I knew Johnny Depp would appear in the movie. Still I thought his cameo here was perhaps the best “you-used-to-be-in-the-TV-show” cameo I’ve ever seen. In general, cameos of this type tend to be pretty weak, but this one most definitely was not. Other original cast members show up, too. People who watched the show should have an easier time spotting them than I did!

Funniest Moment:
The entire movie was pretty funny. If you go to movies often and get there early, you’ve seen some of the jokes before. Once the movie hits its stride, however, and the characters go undercover, most of humor hasn’t been spoiled by the previews.

For a long time, I had lukewarm feelings about Channing Tatum, not impressed by him in any way. Then I saw him on SNL and realized he does comedy pretty well. He’s quite funny in this movie. Even though I’ve liked Jonah Hill since Superbad, I actually think his co-star delivers some of the funniest moments in this movie.

I loved Jenko’s reimagining of the first pop quiz he took and laughed so hard during his first drug-enhanced explanation at the white board.

Best Action Sequence:
The chase scene that ensues when Schmidt and Jenko follow a piƱata to an unexpected place builds suspense and amusement and keeps us on the edge of our seats waiting for something to blow up. What happens afterwards during the play is pretty great, too.

The Negatives:
As the movie introduces us to Schmidt and Jenko back in high school, the song “The Real Slim Shady” is playing. Jonah Hill shows up in a white T-shirt and bleached blonde hair, looking kind of like a chunky Eminem, leading Jenko to dub him “not-so-Slim Shady.” The caption tells us that the year is 2005. That just seemed really off to me.

I remember coming home from college for the summer to discover that my sister in high school obsessively loved that song, and that was well before 2005—I think about five years before! Jonah Hill is eleven months older than my sister, who graduated in 2003. So when he actually was in high school, the Slim Shady alter ego would have made more sense.

I mean, I realize that Eminem was still a recognizable figure in 2005 (and basically remains so today), and I realize that Schmidt is not popular, but it still felt off and bugged me for a long time.
Another problem. Almost every single thing in the trailer happens in the first ten minutes of the movie. On the plus side, most of the movie isn’t spoiled and feels fresh. Unfortunately, that means that the first ten to fifteen minutes of the movie seem stale and move incredibly slowly.

You can see from the petty nature of these complaints that I enjoyed the movie. Of course, some things that happen don’t make a lot of sense, but what would be plot holes in a serious drama are just par for the course in an over-the-top action comedy. Some of the humor is incredibly juvenile, but after all, that’s why Schmidt and Jenko were sent to Jump Street in the first place. They’re immature.

Sometimes, the movie knocks you upset the head with a sledge hammer when a flick on the nose would work better. To me, last scene in which a villain is shot went on a bit too long and would have been funnier if it had been slightly less graphic. A joke that starts out funny (mainly because of the way the characters react) becomes less funny as it becomes increasingly unbelievable.

Also, though I’m not denying that Ellie Kemper is talented, I thought her character, Ms. Griggs, the chemistry teacher blindsided by her lust for Jenko, just didn’t work at all. She would have been much funnier if she hadn’t been so over-the-top corny. Her performance seemed more suitable for late night sketch comedy, not a full-length theatrical release. A sprinkling of tongue-in-cheek, wink-wink jokes (i.e. multiple characters remarking on how incredibly old the boys look for high school) work fine when they’re kept short. But Kemper’s entire performance seemed like one of those jokes, taken much, much too far. The character’s reaction to Jenko could have been hilarious if it had been portrayed with more subtlety and more of a sense of progression. Kemper just seemed really fake, like a sentient knock-knock joke inserted into a movie of humans.

All of the teachers were weird, of course, but Chris Parnell as Mr. Gordon made the drama teacher weird in a less improbable way. (In fact, he was pretty believable as a high school drama teacher.) And Rob Riggle’s weirdness was offset by the strange behavior of Schmidt and Jenko.

I really enjoyed 21 Jumpstreet. It was well written (by Michael Bacall and Jonah Hill) and consistently funny. Even when I wasn’t laughing, I was smiling because both protagonists were quite likable and engaging, and the high school students, played by Dave Franco, Brie Larson, and Dax Flame were always fun to watch, as well. If you’re a fan of Ice Cube and would like to see him in a recent comedy that isn’t painful to watch, then you’ll love 21 Jump Street. Also, some of the best lines in the film are delivered by Johnny Depp. Many other stars of the TV series also show up in the movie. It was really fun to watch.

Penelope Says on Facebook

March 10:

Penelope (watching Grayson, Derrick, and I play Mario Brothers): I know, this game cheats!
Penelope (running over and getting on Derrick's lap): Bubby didn't get here first, so I won the game on you!!! Ha ha! Hoo! Hoo! I winned the race, Bubby!
2:54 pm

Grayson started freaking out during Mario, so Penelope put her orange snake around her neck and started strangling him. These theatrics went on for a long time. Then Grayson finally got it off, and he threw the snake. Nellie went crazy.
Penelope (sobbing): No! That's my Orangey Snake! You hurt him!
Grayson: Well, you were trying to strangle me!
Penelope: No! You were going crazy, so I tried to save you because I love you. And I wanted to get your attention, Gray. I just wanted to tell you hello!
3:39 pm

Something to consider...
Screaming, "I LOVE YOU," while trying to strangle someone to death with a snake just might be sending a slightly mixed message.
3:43 pm

Me: Nellie, stop strangling Bubby.
Penelope: (as she holds the snake, finding a piece of paper on the floor) This is a letter from your home, Bubby! It says, "You can go home if you don't like it!"
Grayson: (throwing off the snake) Ha! I got away!
Penelope: Noooo! My trap is loosed! Come back, you thief!! (chasing him) Stop! (in a squeaking) I want to kill you!
Me: That's not a great incentive for him to stop!
3:45 pm

Grayson (jumps on to Derrick's lap): Nooo!
Penelope (grabs his leg and tries to pull him off): TUMBLE!!!
3:47 pm
There was the loudest boom I've ever heard during a storm...
Penelope: Daddy! All the world exploded! Come see!
Derrick: What exploded?
Penelope: ALL THE WORLD! Come see!!!
(We all step out on the back porch)
Grayson: All this water is making me have to pee. (Pauses) Can I pee right here?
Derrick: No!
Me: You can go in the house!
Derrick: Yes, one of our children is a boy.
Grayson: But all the rain is making me have to pee right now.
Derrick: Grayson, if you pee out here, you'll get struck by lightning! Now let's get in the house! Let's go!
4:07 pm

March 11:

Me: God made the world.
Simba: No, He didn't. He just made the earth as a circle. (Illustrates by making a circle around her kner with her fingers.)
Me: So who made the rest?
P: No one. That's why there were no sidewalks then!
1:30 am

P (hysterically from the back seat): No no, shadow! Go away! I wish you away!
6:57 pm

Grayson is extremely polite, and you can tell because lately after he's here for the weekend, Penelope answers me by saying, "Yes, sir," for the next several days.
11:23 pm

As we were getting out of the car, Penelope started talking about wanting a duck suit. She said Santa Claus would bring her one. I couldn't type it all fast enough on my phone because we had just arrived at the duck pond, so I asked her to repeat it.
11:45 pm

March 12:

So, Penelope decided to dive into a pile of dirt which is now almost mud and completely cover herself in thick wet dirt. But she was okay. Then she ran into a field to get the mud out of her hair and slipped and skidded across the ground. But she was okay. She slipped again on the concrete running back to me. But she was okay. Then I had her stand right next to me, and she somehow put the hand that wasn't touching me into some fire ants. Not okay. The moral? Never watch your child too closely. Always let her run around like crazy, and she'll be fine.
4:40 pm

Me: Derrick, will you get here a cookie? They're on top of the refrigerator?
Derrick: Sure. (Gets her a cookie)
Penelope (cheerfully): Thanks, Cookie Man!
11:45 pm

March 13:

Me: We don't have sixpences here.
P: I do. Well I did. But it was only a dream. Every time I lay down in that sand, I wake up in my house again. The magic wears off, and it was only a dream! I wish I could go back to that world!
1:48 am

When Penelope woke up, Grandpa was watching Lethal Weapon 3 downstairs, and she could hear it in the distance.
Penelope (to me): It sounds like Bubby is playing his game. Punch! Punch!
Now, she's watching the ending trying to make sense of it while she eats her toast and apples...
Penelope: Uh oh. They took it. The took the car that was for the policemen.
Me: But those are police men.
Penelope: Are you sure those are policemen?
(My Dad gives her a lengthy explanation)
Penelope: Uh oh! Water is dripping out!
Grandpa: No, that's gasoline. He's going to light it on fire.
Penelope: Well, that's not a good way! The house is falling down! Who is that girl?
Me: She's a policeman, too.
Penelope: Well, when are the other policemen going to get there? Ohhh...
1:38 pm

Penelope (bringing Orangey Snake over to show Merry and Matt): Did somebody shot him? Oh no! Did somebody shot him? He doesn't sssss (makes a hiss noise) anymore! Somebody call the doctor?
9:25 pm

Penelope: Fluffy Kitty isn't a spider.
Me: No, he is not a spider. When you're right, you're right.
Penelope: (running into the kitchen, animatedly to Merry) I dream about a spider, and he kicks up his claws, and he goes wherever he wants to go, and he kicks up his claws. Kick! Kick! Kick! I dream about the spider. Kick! Kick! Kick!
9:32 pm

Derrick (showing me a picture on his phone): Look at this. It's a butter slicer.
Penelope: Why do they slice butterflies?
Derrick: They don't eat butterflies. This is for butter. Not butterflies.
Penelope: They do eat butterflies because they're so sweet and so yummy.
Derrick: I think you're being silly.
Penelope: I eat butterflies because they're made out of meat. (She's still running around in a circle, gulping and making yummy noises, "eating butterflies" to demonstrate.) And caterpillars! And baby snakes! And tiny lions! (She just stopped) I'm tired!
Derrick: Why are you tired?
Penelope: Because I ate all those animals! Now I have to take a nap!
9:50 pm

Me (to Derrick): Sometimes I feel like a bad mom because...
Penelope (appearing from nowhere, aghast): You're not a bad mom!

She's now on my good list indefinitely.
10:47 pm

Me: Penelope, I can delete Dinosaur Train, right? I mean, you never watch it.
Penelope: Because it's a weird show.

So for the record, a mouse who hangs around with a duck and has a pet dog and a friend who's a dog who goes on dates with a cow? Not weird. Little mermaids/mermen who have a merpuppy and are taught by a giant goldfish? Not weird. Ponies who talk and have magical powers and are best friends with a dragon? Not weird. Two bunny siblings who don't seem to have any parents, just a grandma who lives in another house? Not weird. A monkey who is routinely left in charge of restaurants and pets and launched into space and sent grocery shopping by himself? Not weird. Dinosaurs who ride around on a train? Weird. Just FYI.
11:27 pm

March 14:

Penelope: Chip and Dale are bunnies.
Me: Chip and Dale are chipmunks.
Penelope: Their REAL name is bunnies.
2:54 pm

Penelope (interrupting Derrick at work): Daddy, here's a request that I have to tell you. The spider caught a bug in his web, and he drank his blood, but now the spider's getting old, and he doesn't move very much.
3:08 pm

Penelope (on our walk, out of nowhere, conversationally): You know, I have never liked the Green Goblin.
Me: Well, he's certainly not very friendly, is he?
Penelope: Well, at least he's not friendly to Spiderman. I don't know him very well.
4:54 pm

Me (going through my closet): Okay Nellie, does this fit or is it too small?
P (giggling): I like it! Your whole body is sticking out!

Pretty definitive answer!
6:20 pm

March 15:

P: Grumpy Kitty doesn't know me, so he doesn't listen to my words. I jump and I jump and I tell him. But he likes to bite Fluffy Kitty and nibble him and jump on him.
1:20 am

March 16:

Penelope: Will I be a mommy when I grow up?
Me: You can be if you want to be.
Penelope: Well, I want to be. (Suddenly looks up) Oh! If I'm a mommy, do you have to be dead? Because that's a big choice!
Me: No. Grandma is my mommy, and I'm a mommy, and Grandma's still alive.
Penelope: In that case, I will do it! I will be a mommy!

Me: So will you be a mommy when you grow up?
Penelope: Probably. Or a grandma or an Aunt Merry.
Me: Well, Grandma was a mommy first. I'm her daughter, and I'm your mommy, so you're her granddaughter.
Penelope: I am NOT. I am YOUR daughter.
Me: But you're Grandma's granddaughter!
Penelope: I have never heard of such a thing!
4:22 pm

March 17:

We don't understand this game, but Nellie and Grandma are playing, "Up paper, down paper."
Gma: Up paper!
P: Down paper!
This goes on for some time...
Nellie: Now where was I? Oh yes! Up paper!
6:48 pm

March 18:

Penelope (inside the car as a woman passes by): Baa! Baa! (to me) I like to say that to grown up ladies.
Me: Why?
P: Because I like to warn her!
Me: About what?
P: A storm is coming!
3:26 pm

Penelope (as we drive past various hippos in Hutto): A witch turned all my hippo friends to stone. Daddy, I've got to find that witch!
3:36 pm

Penelope (squeakily from the back seat): I saw a kangaroo eating a cow! WHAAAT?? That's crazy!
8:28 pm

So we were about three minutes from our front door, about to turn across the tracks when a train came. We waited. Just when it had almost passed, it stopped. After twelve minutes, all the cars behind us left, so we did, too. Not the train.
10:20 pm

Derrick: I'm not sure what to order.
Penelope: You like handgurbers, Dad. How about that? (seeing am ad with a burger in a tiara) A handgurber dressed like a princess! How funny is that! Dada, what is Jack in the Box?
Derrick: It's a restaurant.
Penelope: It used to be a toy!
10:30 pm

Penelope: (as we wait in the drive thru line) Why was I born so soon? I was supposed to be born at Easter, but I wanted to be born at Christmas. I snuck up on you!
(as the car ahead of us pulls away) Bye bye, car! Never come back again!
Derrick: Penelope, you're a laugh riot!
Penelope: HA HA HAAA HA HAAAAA! That was me laughing!
10:40 pm

March 19:

Penelope (as Picky, the Hungry, Hungry Hippo): Oh no, Sweetie! All my power is going out from me because a pirate stabbed me while I was hunting!
Me: (as Sweetie) Oh no, Picky! What were you hunting?
Penelope: Wolves.
Me: Wolves?! Did you find any?
Penelope: No, but I found a pirate, and he stabbed me! You have to find that pirate, Sweetie. I need my powers to defeat Night Mare Moon! This is terrible. I'm going to die. I need my powers. I don't know what I will do if I don't get my powers and die!
3:00 pm

Grandpa: Nellie, did you throw your olives on the floor?
Penelope (whispering to me): And guess what else naughty I did?
Me: Are you trying to be naughty?
Penelope: Well, I know you like being naughty!
Me: Penelope, just because I like the book Little Miss Naughty doesn't mean that I want you to be naughty!
5:30 pm

March 20:

Penelope: I think my little sister should be a boy.
Me: Should we call your little brother Max?
Penelope: First I want a little Max. Then I want a big sister named Ruby!
2:16 pm

Penelope (bringing Grandma the Hi-Ho, Cherry-O game): Let's play.
Grandma: But where is the spinner?
Penelope: (looks around, declares, as if breaking bad news): We didn't do a very good job picking up.

When it's time to criticize the picking up, it's always "we." Somehow it's never "we" when it's time to do the picking up!
4:50 pm

Penelope: One time, a lion ate me with his terrible teeth, and I died.
Me: You did? You died?
Penelope: Yes, but I came back to life!
Me: I don't remember that!
Penelope: Well, it was a very long time ago.
Me: How did you come back to life?
Penelope: With my magic powers!
Me: Where did you get magic powers?
Penelope: At the magic wand store, of course.
Me: Well, that's very convenient!
Penelope: Yes, it's very convenient. It's in Africa right by the lions. So I went to the store and got my magic wand, and when I had it with me, the lion ate me. But he didn't know I had magic!
5:45 pm

Me: Hey! What's all this on my computer?
Penelope: A zebra!
Me: I see.
Penelope (delighted, sings): But it still looks like a horse in striped pajamas to me!
Clearly Grandma has been teaching her songs again!
6:20 pm

Penelope: I had a horrible nightmare that ants were crawling on both my legs, and you and Daddy said, "Uh oh!"
Me: That doesn't sound good.
Penelope: It was HORRIBLE! Do you understand? It was a horrible nightmare! It was horrible! Ants on my legs! (shakes her head) I always have the most horrible nightmares. What did you dream about?
Me: I dreamed that I was with a team of three people, and we had to pretend that we were Nazi agents during World War II. Our sniper had killed the actual Nazis, and we had to hope that we fit into their clothes. But the one who was my size wore these really high heels, and when I tried to get them on my feet, I fell over and sank into the mud.
Penelope: Well, my dream was horrible!
6:42 pm

Grandma: Let's read your story. How about that one down there with the lion and the zebras?
Penelope: How about The Lion and the Little Red Bird? Every voice Mommy....The Pee Horse sounds like Dinah, and Dinah sounds like the little red bird.
Grandma: What does the little red bird sound like?
Penelope: Like Pee Horse and Dinah.
7:00 pm

March 21:

Me: If you don't let me brush your teeth, you'll get cavities.
Penelope: What are they made out of?
Me: Cavities? They are holes in your teeth!
Penelope: Oh! I thought they were made of dead rocks and elephant poops!
1:34 pm

Penelope (as if reciting): Wee Willie Winkie runs through the town. Then he toots on little babies. Then he kidnaps them!
1:55 am

Penelope: (eating carrots and pretzels) I am getting pretty stuffed!
Me: I think I'm going to have some Chex mix.
Penelope: Ooh! I want some! (helping herself to the pretzels even though she has pretzels) I like pretzels. I like reading stories, too. (snuggles closer) And I like watching TV. I like movies. I like the Muppets. I like playing the piano. I like taking walks. I like playing games. I like making pictures.
Me: Is there anything you don't like?
Penelope: No. I like everything. I even like catching animals and dressing up like Santa Claus and making them be my reindeer.
Me: You do?
Penelope: (long pause) You know, maybe I don't like the Grinch.

(I have no idea what made her think of The Grinch. We've been reading Little Monster's Bedtime Book.)
3:47 pm

Penelope: I've been talking about the Muppets.
Me (returning from getting something upstairs): You have?
Penelope: Yes, I've been thinking about that movie. Miss Piggie is so so funny. Remember when she said, "I need to talk to you, Frog!"?
3:55 pm

Penelope: Let's watch this movie. (Picks out Follow That Bird) Look there's Elmo.
Me: I think that's Telly Monster.
Penelope: And there's Cookie Monster.
Me: Yep.
Penelope: (pointing to a Honker) And there's the meanest monster of all. The Cook Elmo Monster!
Me: The Cook Elmo Monster!!!
Penelope: (bursts out laughing) The Cook Elmo Monster!!! (more laughing)

Apparently, that was a joke!
4:21 pm

Penelope accidentally pulled apart our red and green slinky.

Penelope: I'm sorry I broke the slinky, Mommy. I was just fighting with him, and I wanted him to be something else. I wanted him to be whatever he wanted to be. I was trying to help him, but he said no, so I had to pull him, and then...and then....(trails off sadly, holding the slinky in two parts).
5:34 pm

March 22:

Penelope: Remember that time I got the flu in my leg?
Me: When was that?
Penelope: (becomes unglued immediately) No! Remember! Remember!
Me: When you were in the NICU?
Penelope: NO!!!! The last time!
Me: Don't be upset. Just help me remember!
Penelope: I got that flu shot in my leg because the last time, I got the flu in my leg!
1:50 pm

March 23:

Me: My kidney still hurts! If it's not a kidney infection, why does my kidney still hurt?
Penelope: (patting me reassuringly) Don't worry, Mommy. You don't have a kidney. You're gonna be so surprised when you don't even have a kidney!
1:45 pm

March 24:

Penelope: (singing) Hoo hoo hoo, under the owl sun!
Grayson: No, it goes (starts singing)
P: Shut up, Bubby.
Gray: You shut up!
P: I won't!
Gray: I won't either, so you shut up.
P (pausing periodically and getting louder): No...I WON'T SHUT UP! You...should...SHUT UP INSTEAD...OF ME!!!!
6:40 pm

Derrick: They call me the Smacktory because I am smacktacular!
Penelope: They call me Crackers.
Grayson: There's not a lot of people here.
Derrick: Good.
Grayson:I was just commandeering.
Derrick (confused): You're commandeering?
Grayson: Whatever.
6:45 pm

Penelope (interrupting a conversation Derrick, Grayson, and I are having about Bart Simpson joining the Mafia): Mommy! Mommy! Wait!
Me: Yes?
Penelope: After you marry a guy...
Me: Yes?
Penelope: Then...He turns into a werewolf!
Grayson: I thought that happens when you go in the closet with a girl. (long pause) What? Haven't you guys seen Teen Wolf?
8:45 pm

Penelope: Mommy, I want to sing the pee pee song. (sings) Pee pee! Pee pee! All around the earth! (turns around) (Explains) When I was an old bunny, I used to pee in my pants, and then I peed in the potty, and then I peed in my pull-up. Now I'm a very old bunny. (sings again while spinning) Pee pee all around the world!
(Grayson grabs her to give her a hug. She goes absolutely berserk)
9:18 pm

March 25:

When Derrick was putting Grayson to bed...
Penelope: NO!!!!! I want to make more pictures! (Grayson had been making pictures on her Magnadoodle.)
Derrick: Well, Giggles has to go to bed.
Grayson (walking toward the couch and away from the stairs): Maybe one more picture...
Penelope: Wrong way, Giggles!
12:18 am