Movies in Theaters March 16th, 2012
This weekend brings us the movie version of Fox's first hit television series (21 Jump Street), Will Ferrell speaking Spanish and shooting banditos (Casa de mi Padre), Jason Segal finally getting out of his mother's basement (Jeff, Who Lives at Home) and Adrien Brody as a teacher who learns a thing or two from his students (Detachment).
We're not sure whose idea it was to turn Fox's super-serious (well, as super-serious as you could be back in '87) drama series into a raunchy R-rated action comedy, but it looks to have been the right call. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum (the latter, once trapped in dumdum action roles and mopey romances, is turning into quite the adept comedian) play a pair of beat cop rookies who are assigned to go undercover and save students from themselves (and drugs) at the local high school, despite the fact that at least one of them "looks fu**in' 40 years old"; hijinks ensue, much to the chagrin of their cranky superior officer (what looks to be a perfectly-cast Ice Cube). Yes, that's James Franco's little brother as the teenage mega-villain, tossing around illegal substances and insults like he owns the place, and Nick Offerman of Parks and Recreation shows up to do another delightful variation on his inimitable Ron Swanson character (sans moustache, this time). Rumor hath it that Johnny Depp, whose poster-boy turn on the original series made him a star, makes a cameo appearance somewhere amongst the crude, lewd shenanigans, but you know what? It doesn't look like this party really needs him to bring the good times.
A Will Ferrell comedy spoken entirely in Spanish? Sure, why not? Actually, Casa de mi Padre looks to be an 85-minute extension of what probably just should've been a Saturday Night Live sketch, albeit one that managed to cast both of the now all-grown-up muchachos from Y Tu Mama Tambien, Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna. Ferrell (who can handle Spanish just fine, apparently) plays a rancher who falls in love with the new fiancee (Genesis Rodriguez) of his younger brother (Luna); a steamy love triangle proves to be the least of their worries when little hermano's shady business dealings eventually put them at odds with a local drug lord (Bernal) and all hell breaks loose. Let's see how long this one-joke premise can sustain itself; Ferrell doesn't quite "got it" as much as he used to, but he can still be quite the comedy pinch-hitter -- and sometimes when you least expect it (he was the best thing about Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie). Along for the ride is Ferrell's Eastbound & Down pal, Efren Ramirez, with Funny or Die veteran Matt Piedmont making his feature directorial debut.
Jason Segal brings the energy level down to 5-ish after running on 11 throughout The Muppets in this dark comedy about a thirtysomething man who lives in his mother's (Susan Sarandon) basement; his seemingly aimless life suddenly obtains a "destiny" when he spends a day with his semi-estranged brother (Ed Helms), who's tracking his possibly adulterous wife (Judy Greer) -- their journey turns into one of reconciliation, with each other and with themselves, as they also come to terms with the death of their father. Don't think it's all doom and gloom, though -- they also do fun stuff like crash a car and hide behind bushes. Jeff, Who Lives at Home is written and directed by Jay and Mark Duplass, the filmmaking brothers who know their way around uncomfortable family dramas after The Puffy Chair and especially Cyrus; they're experts at pulling the rug out from under a scene, where a serious moment suddenly turns riotously funny and a comic situation suddenly turns emotional (the trailer is actually full of examples of both scenarios). Bonus cast member: Rae Dawn Chong, the '80s beauty from Soul Man and Arnold Schwarzenegger's Commando whom the Duplass Brothers brought in for Cyrus, plays an associate of Sarandon's.
Adrien Brody is a good actor, but he might need a new agent; he just hasn't managed to snag a role (or deliver a performance) as powerful as his Oscar-winning turn in The Pianist, and that's going on ten years ago. However, Detachment looks like a step in the right direction toward regaining his rightful rank as a Hollywood A-lister with his role as a wandering sad sack substitute teacher who gets a fire in his belly after he starts to truly connect with both the students and faculty at his latest school -- sometimes in rather combative ways. You can't beat that supporting cast of teachers (Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks, Lucy Liu, James Caan, William Petersen and Marcia Gay Harden), but the person who's got his entire grade for the semester riding on this one is director Tony Kaye, making his first high-profile feature film since having American History X taken away from him in post production by Edward Norton. Interestingly enough, Kaye's next film is called Attachment, though it's not a sequel . . . unless Sharon Stone as a married mother who has an ill-advised fling with a much younger man is somehow alluded to in a parent-teacher conference scene.