Is this a recipe for movie success?
Let’s start with a reasonably successful series, such as TV’s “21 Jump Street,” which ran from 1987 to 1991. In the case were Holly Robinson (very easy on the eyes – she was not married Rodney Peete yet), Peter DeLuise, Johnny Depp and Dustin Nguyen. The series, created by Stephen J. Cannell, had the following theme, according to IMDB.com: “The cases of an undercover police unit composed of young looking officers specializing in youth crime.”
Now let’s move ahead about 10 years. Hollywood looks around for a new movie to make, and they – just maybe – want to aim at the youth market. Naturally they look backward to a youth-oriented TV crime/drama series involving young, undercover cops who solve cases involving “youth crime.” That’s right, they hit upon 21 Jump Street. But here’s the kicker – they decide, for some reason, that another youth-oriented crime/drama/action movie wouldn’t be quite good enough. So what do they do? Yes, that’s right! They make it into a comedy – with Jonah Hill as one of the stars. Not only is he one of the stars, but he also gets a writing credit for the story.
That’s where they lost me.
Let’s start with Jonah Hill. He seems like a nice guy. Any time I’ve seen him interviewed, he appears to be a decent individual. He was pretty good in Moneyball, which got reviews that spanned the spectrum from very good to very bad. That doesn’t mean I want to see him in a comedy, or almost anything else.
Now, let’s take a look at the box office numbers. According to BZoxOffice.com, the total domestic gross for 21 Jump Street was $138,447,667, and the worldwide gross was $201,938,263 on a total budget of $78,000,000. (THat must include advertising and marketing and other expenses, as IMDB.com lists th production budget as $42,000,000.00.) IMDB gives the total adjusted gross as $137,651,800.00 and it grossed #35,000,000.00 in its first weekend from March 16 – March 18, 2012.
Apparently that kind of success was all the impetus Hollywood needed for a sequel. That should have set off red flags to investors everywhere. How many sequels are as good as or better than the original? A few, sure. Perhaps The Godfather II and Rocky II were at least as good as the original movies. But The Godfather III didn’t stand up to the first two installments, and we don’t even have to think about any of the follow-up Rocky efforts.
For every successful sequel, however, there’s a dud. Consider, if you will, Speed II, Caddyshack II, Crocodile Dundee II or Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles. The original Crocdile Dundee was a charming movie with an easy humor and characters you grew to care about. The scene in which Linda Kozlowski bends overs in a thong, still stands out in my memory. The question is, was 21 Jump Street such a well-made, talked-about, admired movie that the movie-going public cried out for more? So it would seem – at least, that’s what Hollywood seems to think.
As a result, the sequel – cleverly named 22 jump Street, as opposed to, let’s say, “21 Jump Stret – The Next Jump” or, “Return to 21 Jump Street” or even “21 Jump Street: Takin’ the Streets Back” or “21 Jump Street: The Next Generation.” Why the change of address? Are they looking to isolate or insulate themselves from the original?
As it turns out, the real theme is more about personal relationships than solving youth-centered crime. Here’s the storyline, as written by Sony Pictures Entertainment:
After making their way through high school (twice), big changes are in store for officers Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) when they go deep undercover at a local college. But when Jenko meets a kindred spirit on the football team, and Schmidt infiltrates the bohemian art major scene, they begin to question their partnership. Now they don’t have to just crack the case – they have to figure out if they can have a mature relationship. If these two overgrown adolescents can grow from freshmen into real men, college might be the best thing that ever happened to them.
Bohemian art scene? Is that so? That sounds almost as inspired as having Denise Richards play a nuclear physicist in The World Is Not Enough or having Matthew Broderick play a paleontologist in Godzilla. I like both actors but there has to be some basic level of believability associated with their characters, and in these teo cases, there was little. I like both of them, and I understand the desire for actors to fight against typecasting, but these roles were just not credible.
The cast for 22 Jump Street is at least partially the same cast as for the original, for the moment. The full cast hasn’t been finalized. Brad Pitt, Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill and Ice Cue are set, but Amber Stevens, Rob Riggle, Dax Flame and Johnny Pemberton are listed as “rumored.”
All of this makes me want to run out and see it the instant it’s released. Then again, I wonder if I would be happier spending the cost of a ticket on a couple of really good sandwiches.