We’ll need a lot of ring space for this Smackdown, as it’ll be an energetic tag-team bout. Facing off will be two cop buddy comedies: In the new corner is 21 Jump Street, a very loose adaptation of the 1980s TV show about young undercovers, best remembered for introducing Johnny Depp to most of the world. Its opponent is The Other Guys, which follows the adventures of two police desk jockeys, looking to rebrand themselves as they get involved in a high-stakes fraud case. […]
Oh, to be young, independent, sexy… and rotting in some hellhole of a foreign prison.
Young Americans take a lot of things for granted. The right to party, to be spontaneous, to make quick friends, to stiff a rental service or skate on some free drinks, that kind of thing. Mostly they get away with it, and when things go bad, they can usually talk their way out of the consequences or get a lawyer to talk for them.
Around the time Bill Clinton was getting impeached for breaking the rules himself, Hollywood got in a game of chicken on two films about young American travelers who make some mistakes in judgment, run afoul of very strict drug laws and end up in nightmares they can’t wake up from. […]
The world is getting worse. I realize that my perception is colored by my advancing age and my own inevitable glorification of the halcyon days past, but I think it’s also true. The world is less civilized, less kind, less gentle, and the vulgarization of popular taste is either an unhappy result or partial cause of the precipitous downslide. Judd Apatow’s films capture something in the culture that grates on me; they have heart, but they also try to deliver on a boyish crudeness, an acceptance of careless behavior with little to no consequence. It’s the having it both ways that rankles so much; I would pay no attention to these films at all if they didn’t try so hard to be sweet. But the sweetness is buried in so much profanity and offensiveness; not liking these films makes me feel like a prude, and that’s not a feeling I enjoy. I don’t think I’m being a prude when I object to portraying heroin use and trafficking as a comic convention; there’s nothing funny about forcing an employee to shove a baggie of heroin up his ass while in line at an airport. I’m sorry. That’s not okay with me. The fact that the movie makes that incident not just okay but just another story beat in its salacious, bawdy, saucy naughtiness concerns me. Forcing that same someone to use a cocktail of drugs including meth and heroin strikes me as even more appalling. Making light of such drug abuse is just plain wrong.
Both movies are all about overcoming the odds and a parent’s love that allows them to suffer anything to help their children. In “Extraordinary Measures,” this involves the Internet but “Lorenzo’s Oil” takes place in the world before all the answers were at your fingertips and, initially, it seems like a tougher problem. God knows it’s hard for an average guy to find venture capital and start a company but it’s not quite the level of problem as actually becoming a scientist and curing a disease. So, in set-up, “Lorenzo’s Oil” has more obstacles but it’s also way more daring with the characters. Although there are characters in “Extraordinary Measures” who aren’t saints (notably, the prickly scientist played by Ford), the parents sure are. “Lorenzo’s Oil,” in contrast, is daring enough to suggest that in this war to save a child that both parents become sort of, well, unlikeable because the stakes are too high to care about being nice. It’s a bold choice. Both films try to strike a balance in not stereotyping the medical establishment as unfeeling money-grubbers and to see them as scientists who are trying to solve a problem by being unbiased in their approach, something that a desperate parents can never really be.