I know, it's March. Why are we hyping up films as "the year's best" when the year is only two-and-a-half months old? Fair question, and here's your answer: Because upon looking back at the films that have opened up in 2012 so far, this weekend's 21 Jump Street and Jeff, Who Lives at Home are, as the title suggests, two of the year's best films. Not because they're Oscar-worthy, or because 9-out-of-10 critics on Rotten Tomatoes used the word "dazzling," but because they both just entertain like gangbusters.
Stop Saying The 21 Jump Street Movie Looks So Dumb and You're Not Going to See It Because Channing Tatum is a Meathead
One of the biggest criticisms I've heard about 21 Jump Street so far comes from people who haven't seen it. "That just looks dumb; I'm not wasting my time," said one of my Twitter followers recently. And it wasn't until I interjected and advised them to give the film a chance that they second-guessed their gut reaction. Now they're going to see it, and I feel better about the critic's role in the movie-watching universe.
Based on the '80s TV show starring Johnny Depp as an undercover cop who infiltrates a high school's student body by pretending to be one of its students, Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum .... blah blah, you already know this stuff. They're idiot cops sent to a pathetic undercover unit tasked with tracking a dangerous new drug inside a high school. The basic premise is all the film and show really share (aside from a few fun Easter Eggs), and the film -- as dirty and foul-mouthed as it is -- slowly unravels to reveal a wickedly smart, hip comedy that plays off familiar high-school-movie stereotypes, all while poking fun at its own existence within the current crop of Hollywood remakes, sequels and whatevers. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum prove to be a fantastic buddy-cop duo, right up there with the best of them, and the script continuously plays to their strengths from the first minutes to the hilarious, action-packed conclusion.
This is an accessible comedy for people who like smart, potty-mouthed teen humor mixed with adult references and a drop of '80s nostalgia, and it'll be a tough comedy to beat as we approach the summer blockbuster season. Those who dismiss it because "it looks dumb" don't know what it's like to give something a chance.
And that brings us to the second great film in theaters this weekend.
Jeff, Who Lives at Home is Sweet, Hopeful and the Year's Best Feel-Good Movie So Far
Writer-directors Jay and Mark Duplass have made a name for themselves with their low-budget relationship dramedies like The Puffy Chair, Baghead and Cyrus, and with Jeff, Who Lives at Home the duo are at the top of their game, putting forth a dysfunctional family dramedy akin to the sort of stuff they started out working on, but a lot more polished.
Essentially a story about chasing after the one thing that's most important in life, Jason Segel stars as Jeff, a jobless stoner who lives at home hopelessly searching for "signs" (after obsessing over the movie Signs) that will hopefully lead him to discover and then achieve his life's goals. One day, while out running an errand for his mother (Susan Sarandon), Jeff decides to follow what he thinks are "signs," eventually leading him on a quest of chance and coincidence, in which his overly positive, let-fate-lead-the-way attitude touches his douchey brother (Ed Helms) and emotionally lost mother in the most inspiring, unexpected ways.
Sure, it might get a little corny at times, reminding you of that one annoying friend of yours who always says stuff like, "I'll just let the day take me wherever it takes me," but we're in desperate need of films like this right now. Films that make you feel like it's okay to hope and dream and take chances with your life. That even when things are as low as they'll ever be -- and you're 30-years-old ripping bong hits in your mother's basement with no job and no direction -- life always gives you the opportunity to take a chance on something or someone, and that might just be the chance that helps turn things around.
Ya know, sometimes you just have to look for the signs.