This week we’ve got a trio of very different comedies. 21 Jump Street is more of a traditional funny comedy, Casa de mi Padre is a bold comedy entirely in Spanish and Jeff, Who Lives at Home is dramedy. Which should you spend your hard-earned money (and which one should you convince your friends to see with you)?
21 Jump Street
Without treading too much of the same ground as Hot Fuzz, the whole crew makes clear their affections for action cinema, trashy television and the YouTube generation alike while having fun at the expense of all three.
But you also get a movie with some laughs — including one huge one, right near the end. And sometimes on a Friday night — and heading into a hard-partying St. Patrick’s Day weekend — that’s all you want.
This bracing new take on 21 Jump Street has a playful spark all its own. It’s a blast.
So “21 Jump Street,” an adaptation of Johnny Depp’s career-launching ’80s TV show, is a meta-comedy — plus it’s a buddy comedy, a physical comedy, an action comedy and a nonstop raunchy verbal riff like “Superbad.” That ought to be enough comedy for anyone, and this is the funniest movie I’ve seen in more than a year.
VERDICT: Go See it.
Casa de mi Padre
I’ll say this for Casa de Mi Padre (Pantelion Films), the Spanish-language mock-melodrama starring Will Ferrell as a dense Mexican rancher: It’s deeply committed to its own weird conceit, diminishing returns and all.
Not that the laughs come so fast and furious. If “Casa” feels like an overlong video from the website FunnyOrDie, that’s probably because producers Ferrell and Adam McKay founded the site, while director Matt Piedmont and writer Andrew Steele are contributors to it.
This very funny spoof of telenovelas and classic Mexican westerns is decidedly offbeat and absurdly daffy. Ferrell even sings.
“Casa” scores its best laughs with simulations of low-budget moviemaking cheats and gaffes: the obvious use of miniatures, the artsy reflection shot that captures the image of a crew member. In that vein, it also doesn’t know when to quit, as in a camera assistant’s apology for an action sequence gone wrong.
VERDICT: Wait for DVD.
Jeff, Who Lives at Home
The lives of these sweet, confused, basically decent people wrap around one another in ways that are funny, far-fetched and touching.
Seen through one lens, “Jeff, Who Lives at Home” can be interpreted as an aimless, easygoing wish fulfillment fantasy for underachievers everywhere; seen through another, it’s a numb, naturalistic group portrait of unresolved grief. Either way, with its shambling, felicitously contrived structure and Fellini-esque climax, it’s some kind of Jungian slacker fable.
Eventually, “Jeff, Who Lives at Home” lands in a place of grandeur, human scale, but grand nonetheless.
“Jeff, Who Lives at Home” is a whimsical comedy, very whimsical, depending on the warmth of Segal and Sarandon, the discontent of Helms and Greer, and still more warmth that enters at midpoint with Carol (Rae Dawn Chong), Sarandon’s co-worker at the office.
VERDICT: Wait for DVD