21 Jump Street offers a smart meta-commentary on the buddy cop genre and overused Hollywood tropes in general, and also Jonah Hill falls down a lot. Both are funny, but unless you want to be obnoxious you should probably reserve your laughter for no more than two of these tiers of humor found in the movie:
1. Jonah Hill falling down
2. Subversion of Hollywood tropes (expected explosions not happening, socially and environmentally conscious try-hards as the cool kids, ect.)
3. Meta-commentary (basically everything Ice T says)
4. Side characters being “goofy” and/or falling down.
I went with 2 and 3 because I felt they weren’t getting enough attention at my theater (I saw it in San Antonio with my parents; a decidedly older and less savvy audience than my local Alamo Drafthouse in Austin). This probably says less about the supposed unsophistication of that audience as it does my own uptight smugness, but, like, whatever. In my defense, laughing extra hard at the less obvious jokes and references is what you have to do, as part of the hyper-aware 20-something fake-proud-nerd generation that the movie so cleverly pokes fun of, to prove that you “get” it.
But maybe I don’t, because Jonah Hill falling down is, ultimately, the most genuinely funny thing that can happen in a movie, sophistication be damned.
“You multiply NASA’s budget a factor of two or three and you give it a grand vision. You say, ‘We’re going back to the moon, we’re going to Mars. Oh, by the way, we’re going to be on Mars on this date, and right now we are looking at the elementary school children of the nation to see who has the right stuff, because by the time we’re ready to go to Mars, they will be the right age to be astronauts.’ You attract an entire generation of people into these epic projects. And to solve those problems that have never been solved before, they have to invent things. They have to have new ideas. New branches of mathematics get discovered. This feeds into society, into our culture. It’s a difficult sell, but I think it’s our only hope.”—
I am so down with everything Neil DeGrasse Tyson has ever said, but especially this. And he’s been saying it a lot recently. Like on the Daily Show and Colbert and Bill Maher and here and here and basically everywhere.
Let’s go to Mars! Let’s save the country! Save the world! With science!
As I feed, the rising tide of discarded boxes will become my throne and sanctuary, my shining city on a hill. My earthly body will grow fat and yielding, a gelatinous glob of mirth and cheese melting into my throne until we are one. The people will look up at us on our cardboard mountain and wonder, and when they have wondered long enough they will be part of us. The land, the oceans, the very air will be choked to the atom with radiantly yellow cheese powder and the labored sighs of the Man Who Has Become the Earth, and the universe will tremble at its glory.
My two interview subjects focused primarily on unrelated but similar incidents involving cheap late night dining institutions, which for college students is a a category rife with brand betrayals and transgression, and thus worth exploring.
Interview I: white female, age 21
The first incident occurred in the early morning hours around a year ago at the venerable fast food Mexican establishment, Taco Cabana, at the Nueces and Martin Luther King St. location in Austin, Texas. A little backstory: my subject was new to Austin at the time and had never previously dined at a Taco Cabana restaurant, as her hometown did not yet have the privilege of having one. Furthermore, she had been an avid fan of its competitor Taco Bell for most of her life and was content to leave it as such. Despite this, she was excited at the prospect of sampling some of Taco Cabana’s esteemed dishes, including but not limited to their famed Cabana Bowl. The establishment had been heavily recommended for its fast tasty vittles and its 24 hour availability since her move to Austin, and was conveniently located directly across the street from where she had just moved in. It was a more innocent age, and she and her best friend were out on the town in a new city, where the air tasted sweeter and the possibilities seemed endless.
Then came the staple. It was a large, industrial type staple, with one of the sides broken off so that it was rather sharp at one end, and it was in her food. “It could have like pierced my gums or something. I was afraid for my mouth,” she said. The fact that it did reach her mouth was a natural consequence of her eagerness in finally getting so savour this highly-vaunted delicacy, but also a dealbreaker in terms of building a lasting relationship with the brand. She could not finish her food. To top it off, the staple wasn’t the only let-down. Her order, a simple steak fajita taco, was just that: steak wrapped in a fajita, with none of the typical extras she was used to have accompanying her food at Taco Bell. In a word, she felt betrayed.
“Who doesn’t feel betrayed when they get a shard of metal in their food?” she said. “That would make me feel betrayed anytime.” Her response was to first call their complaint number, and after receiving an unsatisfying and automated response, she banished Taco Cabana from her life altogether.
“I always secretly liked Neville as a player, too. In his recent book he described his own England career as “a massive waste of time”, but it wasn’t always like that. Witness for example the notable high of his performance in England’s defeat by Argentina at France 98, where Neville surged with bow-legged fury the length of his touchline, a waddling English Cafu. Albeit it was easy to forget all this later on as his interpretation of the role of full-back was increasingly as a form of obstruction, an immobile object to be skirted warily, like a dying dalek.”—Perfect description or best description? From the Guardian, of course.
I awoke today with news that Jimmy John’s was selling subs for $1. Problem: only 30 minutes of this promotion was left on the clock. How long will the line be? How many sandwiches can I order at each Jimmy John’s? How many Jimmy John’s are in Austin? No time, just go. I stepped astride my beloved bike, whose middle name is Shadowfax, and we rode like the Meaning of Haste was our favorite movie that we had seen so many times we were kinda over it.
First JJ’s: Oh shit there’s a line. Of course there is. How do I wait faster? I go up to order. I fluff my lines. I want a #5, as many as possible, but how many is too many? Will I seem a rude opportunist if I order four? Maybe I should throw a #3 in there so it seems like I’m not just ordering for myself. OH GOD THE MOB BEHIND ME IS GETTING ANTSY. The cashier staunches the flow of excitable garbage coming out of my mouth to tell me there’s a limit of one per customer. I accept because I have to, feeling cheated although I am getting a tasty sandwich for a dollar, and soon the meat torpedo is out of my dreams and in my hands, into my bag and I’m ready to hit the next JJ’s.
Second JJ’s: There is a man outside with a dire warning: “Two minutes left! Two minutes!” By the time I dismount Z. Shadowfax it’s down to one minute with oh god how many seconds?? No time to lock up. Sandwiches. I make the cut, just: I am the last $1 customer! I get to the counter and order, “Five #5’s, please.” Fuck the rules. They give me one and I take it greedily. I rush out the door and my bike is not stolen.
Look! South Congress! Downtown! Hip, young people!
I mean we basically have to eat Wendy’s now. For Austin. For America. For lunch. For every meal now til the Universe expands, cools and rots into an infinite lightless nightmare void where not even burgers can survive.