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Jun 26 12

By Matt Patches

A jukebox musical is the epitome of reverse-engineered entertainment. Take a set of songs linked together by a common thread, arrange them for Broadway belters, and fill in the gaps with enough narrative to convince the audience they're not sitting through a large-scale, cover band concert. Silly, satisfying and familiar — the perfect combination for a crowd-pleaser. Rock of Ages, the big screen adaptation of the hit stage musical, manages to make the simplistic formula feel even lazier. ALTStarting off like a full-on '80s movie spoof, Rock of Ages quickly loses footing with a bombardment of overproduced tunes lip-synced by its celebrity cast. Simply put: it doesn't rock. At all.

The film opens with small town Kansas gal Sherrie Christian (Julianne Hough) hopping on a bus to make it big in Hollywood. There's a glimmer of hope as she duets Night Ranger's "Sister Christian" with a bus driver — maybe Rock of Ages really will be this fun and absurd. But when Sherrie arrives at The Bourbon Room, the city's premiere rock club and only second to Disneyland as the least threatening place in L.A., the movie spins out of control. Sherrie quickly strikes up a relationship with bartender/aspiring musician Drew (Diego Boneta), is hired by club owner Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin) and his second-in-command Lonny (Russell Brand), and becomes entangled in the joint's big attempt to stay afloat: the legendary Stacee Jaxx's (Tom Cruise) last concert before going solo.

Jun 26 12

By Jenni Miller

It must be awfully frustrating for Robert Pattinson and everyone involved in movies with him to be hamstrung by studios that want to take advantage of his Twilight fan base. There's no other explanation for this fangless adaptation of Guy de Maupassant's classic novel, about a mercenary young lad who beds society ladies for political leverage. Oh, and because he can.

As Georges Duroy, the titular bel ami, Pattinson skulks, sulks, and glowers his way through Paris in the 19th century. The dirt poor, former solider runs into a comrade from the war who is now a powerful newspaper editor; Charles Forestier (Philip Glenister), who takes pity on the filthy drunk, tosses him a few gold pieces, and invites him to dinner. Madeleine Forestier is the brain behind the operation, and she advises Duroy to cozy up to the other society ladies, as they're the ones with the real power. Duroy gets a gig writing a column for the newspaper, which Madeleine actually writes for him, and his career as a professional grifter begins.

May 03 12

By Matt Patches

ALTThe Raven takes a solid foundation (the works of Edgar Allan Poe) gives it an interesting twist (a Se7en-esque crime riff on Poe's existing works) and squanders the opportunity into an unwatchable, 111-minute film fit for no audience. One part CSI, one part Saw, the thriller plods its way through bloody setup after bloody setup, as Poe (John Cusack) accompanies Detective Fields (Luke Evans) in search of the author's fiancee Emily (Alice Eve). She's been kidnapped by a murderous, literary-inclined madman, prompting Poe to put on his Sherlock hat and scream a lot.

Turns out, the inventive demises of Poe's characters, recreated by the faceless serial killer, aren't that exciting — at least, in the hands of director James McTeigue (V for Vendetta, Ninja Assassin). The Raven is a straightforward procedural souped up with Victorian era production design, but the unique setting doesn't forgive any of the ineptitude on display in the other aspects of the film. Poe is forced by the murder to chronicle his villainous exploits for the Baltimore newspaper — the perfect way to torture an entitled author and a dramatic hook to draw us into the antics. But McTeigue abandons the slow burn quality that could have been in favor of buckets of blood. The grisliness of the killings is one of the film's obsession, red splashing across the screen as a pendulum guts a random victim. The Raven's gore earns the film's R, but it's out of place.

Cusack's performance as Poe is befuddling. At times he's an egomaniac, a wise thinker, an action hero — he's completely in flux, and every ounce of the movie's attempted seriousness vanishes. Never before has a part cried out for Nicolas Cage's signature brand of crazy-eyed, manic heightened realism. Late in the film, Poe and a team of police frantically search for his wife-to-be in a crypt. He calls out "EMILLLLLLLLYYYYYYY" in what sounds like the actor's best Ron Burgandy impression. Cusack doesn't know what movie he's in, and there's no one around to help him.

There's little to enjoy in The Raven, even on the surface. The muddy and dull cinematography looks like it was shot with a pea soup filter, drab, period-costuming and production design making squinting even more imperative. There's a strong core idea that dimly flickers under the bland mess of ideas flopping around in the movie — one Cusack and McTeigue even seem capable of pulling off. But The Raven is a spilled quill of ink, sopped up with scare tactics and over-the-top performances. Less nevermore than never began.

May 03 12

By Matt Patches

Let's face it, the world of Hollywood pirating — with its peglegs, eyepatches, shoulder parrots and bounty of other swashbuckling tropes — is pretty silly. Even a high seas adventure like Pirates of the Caribbean has the ridiculous Jack Sparrow to help it hobble along. Pushing the comedy can only work in pirate movie's favor, and Aardman Animation's Pirates! A Band of Misfits goes all out, seizing the absurdity with a flare only British sensibilities could conjure. The film is a treasure trove of design and technical wizardry, but for those less interested in the intricacies of stop motion animation, Pirates!'s simple story packs plenty of low-key laughs that viewers all ages can pick up.

The Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant) is at wit's end. While he's enjoyed his time leading a ragtag group of wannabe pirates, including Albino Pirate (Anton Yelchin), Pirate with Gout (Brendan Gleeson), Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate (Ashley Jensen) and his number two, Pirate with a Scarf (Martin Freeman), a lifestyle of eating ham and barely making ends meet is losing its luster. ALTWhen Pirate Captain shows up to the annual Pirate of the Year submission day, he's once again outdone by Black Bellamy (Jeremy Piven), who rides in on a whale full of gold. Driven by competition, Pirate Captain reassembles his crew, hits the open waters and begins a new wave of pillaging. It's all for naught, until the pirates cross paths with Charles Darwin (David Tennant), who identifies Pirate Captain's "parrot" as an extinct dodo bird. Suddenly, the pirates have a new (and lucrative) calling: science.

There's an unexpected intelligence to Pirates!. The movie, based on a children's book of the same name, centers on Pirate Captain's mid-life crisis, delves into the world of 18th century science and pegs Queen Victoria (Imelda Staunton) as the mastermind bad guy behind the elimination of the pirate occupation. That gives the accompanying adults plenty to chew (and laugh) on, but director Peter Lord doesn't stray away from an ol' fashioned slapstick routine. There's a marvelous stray bathtub sequence halfway through the film, a wild ride through Charles Darwin's old tudor house, that's a true spectacle. But even a simple gag involving baking soda and vinegar exploding sud bubbles is expertly crafted and executed by Lord.

The stop motion technique never feels limited in Pirates!, even with a great deal of walking and talking scenes. Gideon Defoe's script is elevated by the vocal performances; Grant is perfectly cast as the faux-burly Pirate Captain, while Martin Freeman's perfected "timid skeptic" routine from The Office and Sherlock is once again on full display. The Aardman team continues to have a knack for gesturing, their puppets uniquely natural and human. Even with all the enormous pirate ships, detailed cityscapes and dazzling action, Pirates! is at its best when it focuses on the sillier, calmer moments.

Apr 11 12

By Jenni Miller

DamselsWhen Lily (Analeigh Tipton) transfers to scenic Seven Oaks, three strange but charismatic young women approach her like a girl gang in matching sweater sets. Although Lily doesn't need help with her wardrobe or men, Violet (Greta Gerwig), Heather (Carrie MacLemore), and Rose (Megalyn Echikunwoke) recruit her to live with them, hang out with them, and join them in their efforts to thwart the school's "atmosphere of male barbarism." It's not actually barbaric; it's a fairly normal upper class liberal arts college, but to these girls, one of whom has such delicate nostrils that she freaks out at the slightest hint of BO, we'd be much better off returning to an classier era. Seven Oaks, which used to be a women-only campus, is a veiled reference to the Seven Sisters colleges, some of which, like Vassar, have gone coed.

With Violet as a slightly awkward ringleader, the trio has very strict ideas of what's proper and what's not, what kind of behaviors lead to depression and general uncleanliness and what will most enhance each person's happiness. They set out to do this by avoiding handsome men and going for fixer-uppers and offering depressed students tap dancing classes and fresh-smelling soap. However, even though Violet's biggest dream is to kick off "an international dance craze," something she assumes will benefit many people on a wider scale than their college-level suicide interventions, they all seem sort of depressed. Is it anthropological curiosity that motivates Lily, the loneliness of a new school, or, as with the audience, the sort of weird charm shot through sadness that Violet possesses?

Fans of Whit Stillman's talky, thinky, upper crust movies are overjoyed that the writer/director has returned after 14 years, but what will about newbies? Damsels in Distress is somewhat perplexing; there are a few too many characters and subplots that are introduced and then dropped, like the young woman whom the gals take in briefly after a suicide attempt. The film brings up questions about identity, the ways we lie to ourselves, but leaves them dangling. We're given details about who Violet really is in an insightful and startling subplot that could have given the movie a slightly weightier tone, but then it shifts back into Stillman territory. To be fair, that's why we're watching in Damsels to begin with; the random excursions into the outside world of actual mental illness, heartbreak, and financial or personal struggle have no real place in Stillman's lovely bubble. In the end, it's not clear if there's some greater thrust to the movie, some sort of lesson that the protagonists and viewer should be taking away from it all, but if we're allowed to turn off our brains for mindless action fodder and enjoy it, why not do the same for hyper-literate modern dandies in a world of dance classes and sunny college campuses?

It's also buoyed by a strong cast led by Greta Gerwig and Analeigh Tipton, with enjoyable performances by Echikunwoke and would-be suitor Adam Brody, as well as excellent costumes that combine the modern look of liberal arts colleges with the perfectly preppy wardrobe of the three girls and occasional dance numbers. Small touches like Audrey Plaza as a wild-eyed and -haired tap dance student referred to as "Depressed Debbie," Gerwig's stoic face even when referring to her breakdown as being "in a tailspin," and a sight gag here and there serve to remind us that Stillman and his team aren't fumbling in the dark here; they're perfectly aware of how enjoyably goofy Damsels is. It's no accident that their college offers a class called "The Dandy Tradition in Literature" that focuses its studies on Evelyn Waugh and others as obsessed with the leisure class as Stillman.

Apr 03 12

By Matt Patches

Theatrics, slapstick and cheer are cinematic qualities you rarely find outside the realm of animation. Disney perfected it with their pantheon of cartoon classics, mixing music, humor, spectacle and light-hearted drama that swept up children while still capturing the imaginations and hearts of their parents. But, these days, even reinterpretations of fairy tales get the gritty make-over, leaving little room for silliness and unfiltered glee. Emerging through that dark cloud is Mirror Mirror, a film that achieves every bit of imagination crafted by its two-dimensional predecessors and then some. Under the eye of master visualist Tarsem Singh (The Fall, Immortals), Mirror Mirror's heightened realism imbues it with the power to pull off anything — and the movie never skimps on the anything.

ALTLike its animated counterparts, Mirror Mirror stays faithful to its source material, but twists it just enough to feel unique. When Snow White (Lily Collins) was a little girl, her father, the King, ventured into a nearby dark forest to do battle with an evil creature and was never seen or heard from again. The kingdom was inherited by The Queen (Julia Roberts), Snow's evil stepmother, and the fair-skinned beauty lived locked up in the castle until her 18th birthday. Grown up and tired of her wicked parental substitute, White sneaks out of the castle to the village for the first time. There she witnesses the economic horrors The Queen has imposed upon the people of her land, all to fuel her expensive beautification. Along the way, Snow also meets Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer), who is suffering from his own money troubles — mainly, being robbed by a band of stilt-wearing dwarves. When the Queen catches wind of the secret excursion, she casts Snow out of the castle to be murdered by her assistant Brighton (Nathan Lane).

Fairy tales take flack for rejecting the idea of women being capable, but even with its flighty presentation and dedication to the old school Disney method, Mirror Mirror empowers its Snow White in a genuine way, thanks to Collins' snappy, charming performance. After being set free by Brighton, Snow crosses paths with the thieving dwarves and quickly takes a role on their pilfering team (which she helps turn in to a Robin Hooding business). Tarsem wisely mines a spectrum of personalities out of the seven dwarves, instead of simply playing them for one note comedy. Sure, there's plenty of slapstick and pun humor (purposefully and wonderfully corny), but each member of the septet stands out as a warm, compassionate companion to Snow, even in the fantasy world.

Mirror Mirror is richly designed and executed in true Tarsem-fashion, with breathtaking costumes (everything from ball gowns to the dwarf expando-stilts to ridiculous pirate ship hats with working canons), whimsical sets and a pitch-perfect score by Disney-mainstay Alan Menken. The world is a storybook and even its monsters look like illustrations rather than photo-real creations. But what makes it all click is the actors. Collins holds her own against the legendary Julia Roberts, who relishes in the fun she's having playing someone despicable. She delivers every word with playful bite, and her rapport with Lane is off-the-wall fun. Armie Hammer riffs on his own Prince Charming physique as Alcott. The only real misgiving of the film is the undercooked relationship between him and Snow. We know they'll get together, but the journey's half the fun, and Mirror Mirror serves that portion undercooked.

Apr 03 12

By Matt Patches

Much like its Greek mythological source material, Wrath of the Titans is light on dramatic characterization, sticking to blunt moral lessons and fantastical battles to tell its epic tale. That's perfectly acceptable for its 100 minute run time, in which director Jonathan Liebesman (Battle: Los Angeles) unleashes an eclectic hoard of monsters upon his gruff demigod hero, Perseus. The creature design is jagged, gnarly and exaggerated, not unlike a twelve-year-old's sugar high-induced crayon creations — which is perfect, as Wrath is tailor made to entertain and enamor that slice of the population.

Clash of the Titans star Sam Worthington once again slips on the sandals to take on a not-quite-based-on-a-myth adventure, a mission that pits Perseus against the greatest force in the universe: Kronos, formally-incarcerated father of the Gods. A few years after his last adventure, Perseus is grieving for his deceased wife and caring for their lone son, but a visit from Zeus (Liam Neeson) alerts the warrior to a task even more urgent than his current seabass fishing gig. Irked that the whole Kraken thing didn't work out, Hades (Ralph Fiennes), with the help of Zeus' disaffected son Ares (Edgar Ramirez), is preparing to unleash Kronos — and only Perseus has the required machismo to stop him. But Perseus enjoys the simple life, and brushes off Zeus, forcing the head deity to take matters into his own hands…just as Hades and Ares planned. The diabolical duo capture Zeus and, having no one else to turn to, Perseus proceeds into battle.

The actual reasoning for all the goings on in Wrath of the Titans tend to drift into the mystical realm of convolution, but the ensemble and Liebesman's visual, visceral directing techniques keep the messy script speeding along. As soon as one starts wondering why Perseus would ever need to hook up with battle-ready Andromeda (Rosamund Pike) or Poseiden's navigator son Agenor (Toby Kebbell), Liebesman and writers Dan Mazeu and David Johnson throw in another bombastic set piece, another three-headed, four-armed, 10,000-fanged monstrosity on screen. Perseus' journey pits him against a fire-breathing Chimera, a set of Cyclopses, a shifting labyrinth (complete with Minotaur) and all the dangers that come with Hell itself. The sequences have all the suspense of an action figure sandbox brawl, but on a towering IMAX screen, they're geeky fun. If only the filler material was a bit more logical and interesting, the final product would be the slightest bit memorable.

Liebesman reaps the best performances he possibly can from Wrath's silly formula, Worthington again proves himself a charismatic, underrated leading man. As the main trio of Gods, Neeson, Fiennes and Ramirez completely acknowledge how goofy shooting lightning bolts out of their hands must look on screen, but they own it with campy fun tones. But the film's overwhelming CG spectacle suffocates the glimmer of great acting, opting for slice-and-dice battle scenes over ridiculous (and fun) epic speak nonsense. If a movie has Liam Neeson as the top God, it shouldn't chain him up in molten lava shackles for a majority of the time.

Apr 03 12

By Matt Patches

"Show, don't tell."

The mantra is quintessential to the art of moviemaking, but equally applicable to the realm of social advocacy. There may be a problem brewing out there in the world, a reason to rise up and take a stand, but it's near impossible to light a fire simply by telling people a situation exists. They have to witness it themselves.

Bully, a new documentary out now in theaters, crosses over into both these arenas, an insightful piece of photographic journalism that tackles an acknowledged issue rarely dealt with directly: school bullying. Executive Producer Harvey Weinstein has made it loud and clear that people need to address the harrowing claims Bully unveils — so much so, he's taken the MPAA rating system to task for trying to slap a audience-minimizing "R" rating on to the movie (Bully is currently playing unrated). His battle made headlines, sparking big name stars to back the film through PSA videos, taking to their TV shows to spread the word and promoting the film via Twitter. "13 million kids get bullied every year. Today take a stand with me," is what folks like Justin Timberlake, Katy Perry and Hugh Jackman told their followers last week, in anticipation of the movie's release. That's great, but at the end of the day, it's telling. And telling, as director Lee Hirsch reveals in the film, gets you nowhere. Seeing is believing, and Bully must be seen.

The film follows a number of middle school-aged children, barely surviving the landscape of modern bullying. Alex Libby, 12, is routinely called Fish Face – at least, that's what his parents, school faculty and every other adult figure in his life thinks. In fact, Alex is the target of violent torture, from locker head-smashing to pencil stabbing to anything physically possible within the confines of a school bus. Hirsch manages to track his subjects with an unflinching eye, and his captured footage, he later realizes, can't go unseen by Alex's parents. It's that brutal.

Mar 26 12

By Matt Patches

In a post-Harry Potter, Avatar and Lord of the Rings world, the descriptors "sci-fi" and "fantasy" conjure up particular imagery and ideas. The Hunger Games abolishes those expectations, rooting its alternate universe in a familiar reality, filled with human characters, tangible environments and terrifying consequences. Computer graphics are a rarity in writer/director Gary Ross' slow-burn thriller, wisely setting aside effects and big action to focus on star Jennifer Lawrence's character's emotional struggle, as she embarks on the unthinkable: a 24-person death match, on display for the entire nation's viewing pleasure. The final product is a gut-wrenching, mature, young adult fiction adaptation, diffused by occasional meandering, but with enough unexpected choices to keep audiences on their toes.

ALTPanem, a reconfigured, post-apocalyptic America, is sectioned off into 12 unique districts and ruled under an iron thumb by the oppressive leaders of The Capitol. To keep the districts producing their specific resources and prevent them from rebelling, The Capitol created The Hunger Games, an annual competition pitting two 18-or-under "tributes" from each district in a battle to the death. During the ritual tribute "Reaping," teenage Katniss (Lawrence) watches as her 12-year-old sister Primrose is chosen for battle—and quickly jumps to her aid, becoming the first District 12 citizen to volunteer for the games. Joined by Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), a meek baker's son and the second tribute, Effie, the resident designer, and Haymitch, a former Hunger Games winner-turned-alcoholic-turned-mentor, Katniss rides off to The Capitol to train and compete in the 74th Annual Hunger Games.

The greatest triumph of The Hunger Games is Ross' rich realization of the book's many worlds: District 12 is painted as a reminiscent Southern mining town, haunting and vibrant; The Capitol is a utopian metropolis obsessed with design and flair; and The Hunger Games battleground is a sprawling forest peppered with Truman Show-esque additions that remind you it's all being controlled by overseers. The small-scale production value adds to the character-first approach, and even when the story segues to larger arenas, like a tickertape parade in The Capitol's grand Avenue of Tributes hall, it's all about Katniss.

For fans, the script hits every beat, a nearly note-for-note interpretation of author Suzanne Collins' original novel—but those unfamiliar shouldn't worry about missing anything. Ross knows his way around a sharp screenplay (he's the writer of Big, Pleasantville and Seabiscuit), and he's comfortable dropping us right into the action. His characters are equally as colorful as Panem, Harrelson sticking out as the former tribute enlivened by the chance to coach winners. He's funny, he's discreet, he's shaded—a quality all the cast members share. As a director, Ross employs a distinct, often-grating perspective. His shaky cam style emphasizes the reality of the story, but in fight scenarios—and even simple establishing shots of District 12's goings-on—the details are lost in motion blur.

Mar 26 12

By Matt Patches

We previously caught The Raid: Redemption at this year's Sundance Film Festival. You can watch our video blog here

After experiencing The Raid: Redemption, the definition of modern action movies is up for debate. Suddenly, classifying blockbusters that routinely fill our summers—big superhero clobberfests, end-of-the-world scenarios and other spectacles of epic proportions—feels wrong. Sure, they have action—but nothing on par with what director Gareth Evans (the Wales-born man behind Merantau) in his martial arts extravaganza, choreographed with unimaginable precision and shot with just as much finesse. The Raid squares its fights into a compact apartment high-rise, forcing the fisticuffs to be intimate and brutal. It is ballet with bloodshed, more jaw-dropping than any large-scale battle.

The Indonesian-language film follows Rama (Iko Uwais), a rookie S.W.A.T. team member recruited for an infiltration mission against one of Jakarta's deadliest mobsters, Tama Riyadi. Tama resides at the top of a dilapidated high rise, home to a few tenants and a boatload of mercenaries ready to protect their head honcho. When Rama and his squad arrive to take out Tama, they're quickly discovered, flipping their mission from attack to survival.

Like its spiritual predecessor Die Hard, The Raid peppers its scenario with familiarities that keep us afloat during its non-stop action: Rama's a noble guy who stands up for what's right; Tama shoots the thugs who wrong him through the forehead; the S.W.A.T. crew have just enough personality so that we care when some of them fall to hands of Tama's goons; and the script twists and turns along the road aways traveled by. The Raid operates like a video game, Rama traveling upward, crushing baddie after baddie as he passes each level, eventually confronting the final boss.

Mar 20 12

By Matt Patches

Jay and Mark Duplass broke into the movie-making scene as part of the lo-fi movement dubbed "mumblecore." Films like The Puffy Chair and Baghead kept the action intimate, the situations low-key and the dialogue off-the-cuff. As they stretched their wings and continued to evolve, as with 2010's Jonah Hill/John C. Riley-starring Cyrus, their roots were always planted firmly in the grit of realism.

Their latest, Jeff, Who Lives at Home, is their most successful attempt to blend mumblecore sensibilities with mainstream techniques. The production value is amped up, but the situation is still pleasantly simplistic; Jeff (Jason Segel) is a manchild, settled in his mother's basement, but with plenty of introspection, existential thought and marijuana to get him through his days. His brother Pat (Ed Helms) is a retail pawn, too obsessed with owning a Porsche to see that his marriage to Linda (Judy Greer) is crumbling. Sharon, their mother with the basement, is in her own rut. Still grieving after the loss of her husband, Sharon's cubicle existence is shaken when an instant message from a secret admirer pops up on her computer.

ALTThe Duplass Brothers, who also wrote Jeff, weave their three story threads together smoothly, thanks to a tremendous amount of heart the duo slathers on liberally. Jeff, obsessed with the interconnectivity of the world (an idea sparked, of course, by M. Night Shyamalan's Signs), embarks on a journey to retrieve wood glue, eventually sidetracked by a kid named Kevin—who he believes is part of a greater plan. His adventure eventually (and expectedly) crosses paths with Pat, who sees his brother Jeff as nuisance and the worst kind of burnout. Together, they track Linda—who may or may not be having an affair—and help each other to reflect on what the heck is wrong with both of them.

Much like their directing counterparts, Segel and Helms too have been carving out their own unique identities in Hollywood, each with blockbuster projects in 2011 (The Muppets and Hangover II, respectively). But Jeff, Who Lives at Home is easily the best work either have done on the big screen, performances stripped of caricature or over-the-top behavior that are still wickedly funny. Helms, with his straight-out-of-suburbia goatee, captures the complications in trying to live that "perfect life," while Segel never settles for Jeff being a big-dreaming stoner stereotype. Their dynamic as they navigate the streets of Baton Rogue is always charming, always troubling and always twisted. These two guys feel like brothers—a layered relationship that takes more than a written explanation to establish.

Mar 13 12

By Kelsea Stahler

21 Jump Street Police Station Channing Tatum and Jonah HillPickles and ice cream. Bacon and cupcakes. Chocolate and potato chips. Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill. Some pairings shouldn't work, yet somehow the result is delicious – and in 21 Jump Street's case it's a hilarious surprise. There are so many reasons this buddy comedy shouldn't work, but it earns an A in practically every subject.

While remakes of old TV shows tend to get a bad rap – landing Sony Pictures' raunchy comedy in a bit of an uphill battle – it doesn't take long for the flick to separate itself from its source material. When it comes down to it, funny is funny and Jump Street is hysterical.

We find recent Police Academy graduates Schmidt (Hill) and Jenko (Tatum) fumbling through their first assignments, landing them in a resurrected undercover program from the '80s: enter Tom Hanson's (a.k.a. Johnny Depp) old stomping grounds. Like Hanson before them, Schmidt and Jenko go undercover at a local high school in an attempt to ferret out a teenage drug ring. The problem is high school isn't exactly what they remember, forcing Schmidt and Jenko to undergo those growing pains all over again.

Watching Hill and Tatum's characters fumble through their first few days in this alternate high school universe offers decent, but expected laughs. And while keeping things light and funny would be enough to arrest audiences for an hour and a half, Jump Street puts forth a little more effort. As the story escalates, the relationship between the starring duo grows and it's that surprisingly sweet core that punctuates the resultant humor. Throw in folks like Ice Cube, Brie Larson, Ellie Kemper, Rob Riggle and Dave Franco and you've got the hilarious benefit of a strong supporting cast.

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