Movie and Film Reviews (MFR) Comedy Movie Review of ’21 & Over’ (2013)

Movie Review of ’21 & Over’ (2013)

21 & Over is another of those “wild night of partying” films in the vein of The Hangover and last year’s Project X. Written and directed by Hangover scribes Jon Lucas and Scott Moore (making their directorial debut), the movie is precisely what you’d expect; lots of booze, swearing, sexual jokes and crude dialogue. Luckily, there is some immature fun to be had with 21 & Over, as it has funny dialogue and amusing situations here and there. However, the pic is ultimately brought down by shoddy scripting and awkward structuring, not to mention its ham-fisted attempt to merge party chaos with a poignant coming-of-age tale. Whenever it tries to venture into dramatic territory, the movie comes off as manipulative and disingenuous.

Old school friends Miller (Miles Teller) and Casey (Skylar Astin) reunite at Northern University to surprise pal Jeff Chang (Justin Chon) for his 21st birthday. Chang has no plans for a celebration, instead wanting to get to sleep early for an important interview the next morning that was set up by his father (François Chau). Miller refuses to take no for an answer, forcing his buddy to agree to a simple night on the town. But before he knows it, Jeff is demolishing drink after drink and moving from bar to bar, until he passes out hours later. Miller and Casey seek to get their friend home, but have no idea where he actually lives. Hence, the duo begin carrying Jeff around town as they try to find out Jeff’s address and get their pal well-rested in time for his interview. Meanwhile, Casey expresses interest in Jeff’s classmate Nicole (Sarah Wright), who tries to help the boys in their quest.

For their directorial debut, Moore and Lucas merely reworked their Hangover formula once again, this time for a different generation with college-aged characters and a campus setting. The theft of their own work is very obvious, with the search for Jeff’s address substituting a search for an actual character. By the same token, 21 & Over commences with a scene set towards the film’s end before flashing back to the previous night’s events. Compounding the unoriginality, the search for Jeff’s address is not strong enough to sustain the entire movie. Once Jeff passes out, there’s still a solid hour left, and the film cannot sustain itself. This leads to pacing difficulties galore. It grows wearisome by the end, and it’s hard to care. Furthermore, Jeff’s father at one stage hears about the trio’s antics and sets out to find them, but this subplot is far smaller than it should’ve been. He does eventually see his son being put into a police car, but he doesn’t seem to do anything about it, and shows up the following day on his son’s doorstep as if nothing happened. The internal logic is hideous.

Perhaps the biggest issue with 21 & Over is that none of the characters act like real human beings. The conceit of having to find Jeff’s address is not fool-proof enough to sustain the movie – after all, why don’t Miller and Casey simply try to sober Jeff up? At one stage, the boys enter a college party seeking to find someone who knows where Jeff lives. They look to ask the Resident Assistant, but the boys are not allowed to so much as lay eyes on him until they complete eight challenges at various levels of the building and reach the RA on the top level. It sets up some hardcore partying, yet it’s contrived beyond belief. An on-duty RA is present to field any questions or concerns, and such behaviour would not only lead to the RA being sacked, but he may also lose his accommodation altogether. Plus, Miller and Casey drink a lot throughout the night, yet never seem to wind up intoxicated. This type of malarkey keeps going on and on, to the point that we cannot accept any of these characters as real, relatable people.

In fairness, 21 & Over delivers in the laughs category from time to time in a big way. Lucas and Moore embraced the possibilities of the picture’s R rating, mounting a booze-fuelled adventure loaded with profanity, nudity and sexual gags. Not every joke lands (we could happily live without seeing Jeff drunkenly consume a tampon), but there are some satisfying belly-laughs, though your enjoyment of this material is dependent on your sense of humour. Added to this, the film’s depiction of college partying is spot-on. When the film cuts loose and lets the boys get into the alcohol, 21 & Over is tremendously enjoyable. Also, the actors are fairly strong. Teller does a good job as the loud-mouthed, uninhibited one who speaks before he thinks and wants to keep the good times rolling no matter the consequences. Astin, meanwhile, does a decent enough job as the straight-laced Casey. Rounding out the primary trio is Chon as the birthday boy. Chon doesn’t have much to do since he’s often unconscious, but he handles his responsibilities well enough, and he has strong comic timing.

Although it’s handsomely assembled and provides the occasional laugh, 21 & Over is rampantly hit-and-miss, as it continues to lose momentum the longer it goes. Nevertheless, there is some stuff to enjoy here, with a few scenes that reminded me of my own college experience. If you’re in the mood for some brainless laughs, the film may satisfy depending on whether or not you enjoy raunchy comedies. Lucas and Moore have stated that this is their love letter to college, and it certainly shows, but 21 & Over had the potential to be a lot better.


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