I, like everyone else, saw "21 Jump Street" over the weekend. And like pretty much everyone else, I thought it was awesome. There are plenty of reasons for this, most notably the script filled with accessible but smart laughs (provided by "Scott Pilgrim" adapter Michael Bacall), and the surprising number of beloved and hilarious supporting actors (Chris Parnell, Nick Offerman, Ellie Kemper, Rob Riggle, etc.) peppered throughout.
Michael Phillips, film critic for the Chicago Tribune, asked in his review, "What was the last stupid Hollywood comedy — good-stupid, not stupid-stupid — to offer actual, audible, verifiable big laughs?"
It's an interesting question, even if you disagree about "21 Jump Street" being any kind of stupid at all (though the sequence with Jonah Hill dressed as Peter Pan, running from a motorcycle gang makes it a little difficult not to side with Phillips). But "good" and "stupid" are both such subjective descriptors that it would probably be impossible to find one answer to his question. Still, "21 Jump Street" did have me thinking about a type of movie that has been hard to come by lately.
Hasn't it been a few years since we saw a really good, straight-up buddy cop movie? By straight-up, I mean one that is not so aware of its buddy cop-ness. The best ones of recent years (including "21 Jump Street") have all had an element of satire pervading them, or at least a self-referential wink around each corner. I'm not complaining. I love "Hot Fuzz" and "The Other Guys". Even "Starsky & Hutch" keeps me occupied until the end each time I stumble on it while channel surfing. But these movies love and embrace the buddy cop tradition while making fun of it. It's a good combination, because it is an undeniably mockable genre.
But some of us may feel like we've skipped a step. What exactly is the parody attacking and loving at once? "Hot Fuzz" is practically the final exam of a 3000 level buddy cop class, and even if you're laughing you might feel left behind. No worries though. Just study up.
"Point Break" -- Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze are the top-billed stars in (now Oscar winning director) Kathryn Bigelow's 1991 film, so it's easy to forget that Reeves and Gary Busey are actually the cop duo here. Swayze is just the leader of the "Ex-Presidents" surf gang that they must infiltrate. Reeves and Busey perfect the rookie cop-veteran cop generation clash ("I was in this bureau when you were still popping zits on your funny face") that is a crucial trope in movies like this.
"Rush Hour 2" -- Far superior to the first and third installments of the trilogy, this is easily my favorite buddy cop movie. It pairs the hard working, everything-by-the-book Chief Inspector Lee (Jackie Chan) with the fast-talking, unconventional methods favoring Detective James Carter (Chris Tucker). During a vacation in Hong Kong, the two get pulled into a case that might allow Lee to avenge his father's death (classic buddy cop stuff). Ultimately, it is the best example of a buddy cop comedy without the genre satire (honorable mentions to "Blue Streak" and "Cop Out").
"Lethal Weapon" -- If you're not willing to stop hating Mel Gibson for a couple hours, fair enough. I understand. But this is pretty much as basic as it gets in this genre. There is a reason they made a billion of them.
"Turner & Hooch" -- It blows my mind that this movie came out just four months after "K-9," another buddy cop movie starring a dog. The important difference between the two is a young Tom Hanks, who plays Turner (Jim Belushi starred in "K-9"). Despite the fact that, at one point Hooch basically tries to murder him, soon they are best friends that sleep, bathe and solve crimes together. It's like "Air Bud" with guns.
"Bad Boys II" -- Catch phrases are crucial in this genre, and Michael Bay's sequel to "Bad Boys" has enough to last you for a while. Martin Lawrence and Will Smith bicker throughout (surprisingly, the topic of best '90s sitcom never comes up), while raiding the KKK, destroying swimming pools and somehow ending up at Guantanamo Bay. Also there's a bunch of explosions.
"Se7en" -- Just one in what is becoming a long line of David Fincher classics. Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt are the team in this one, once again clashing both because of age and their philospophies on police work, but still achieving mutual respect. It crosses over into horror movie territory pretty quickly, but it's just too good to leave out.
"Wild Wild West" -- "Bad Boys" is the obvious Will Smith pick, but this is the one that stands out most to me. Keep in mind, what really makes a movie stand out to me is if the villain is a giant mechanical spider from the 1800s. I also love that, apparently, Will Smith turned down the role of Neo in "The Matrix" to do "Wild Wild West" instead. Can you imagine how much better "The Matrix" would've been if this had been playing during the end credits?
"In Bruges" -- Technically, it's not a buddy cop movie at all, since neither of the stars, Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, are playing cops. They are hitmen hiding out in Belgium after a botched job. But there's enough snarking between partners, car chases and shoot outs to make it pretty close. It's very funny and the action is really well done, but it becomes great at the end, when things just get really weird.
"Collision Course" -- OK, I won't lie. I have not seen this one. I only just found out it existed, but I am going to watch it as soon as possible. Jay Leno and Pat Morita (best known for playing Mr. Miyagi in "The Karate Kid") starred in this 1992 straight-to-VHS flick. If that information hasn't convinced you that it's a gem, I don't know what will.