21 & Over (2013)
From the writers of the original Hangover, Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, comes their debut directorial effort, the raunchy and lewd 21 & Over. The collage based comedy stars some of the biggest young names out there right now, including Pitch Perfect’s Skylar Astin, Project X’s Miles Teller and the Twilight Saga’s Justin Chon. The comedy looks to follow in the footsteps of Lucas and Moore’s Hangover and last year’s surprise hit Project X, but does it manage to succeed?
College student Jeff Chang (Chon) has always done what’s expected of him, but when his two best friends Casey (Astin) and Miller (Teller) surprise him with a visit for his 21st birthday, he decides to do what’s unexpected for a change. But when what was supposed to be one beer becomes a night of chaos, over indulgence and utter debauchery, Jeff Chang starts blacking out. Knowing it’s time to take Jeff home, Casey and Miller stumble out of the final bar of the evening, one issue though, they have no idea where Jeff Chang lives. To make matters worse Jeff Chang’s overbearing Doctor-father (Chau) has a Med School interview scheduled for 8AM the next morning, and he’s determined his son follows in his footsteps as a physician. With the hours until Jeff Chang’s crucial interview ticking away, Casey and Miller embark on an epic quest to put their drunken friend to bed. Along their journey, they draw the ire of a Latina sorority, an angry buffalo, and Randy (Keltz), the boyfriend of Nicole (Wright), the girl who Casey has been after all night.
21 & Over starts well. The setup is pretty basic, opening with Teller and Astin walking along campus wearing only a cock sock then flashing to a “24 hours earlier” scenario, so we are already told where the film is going. And of course we start with the setup of the overbearing father and Chon, the son afraid to rebel. After a slew of racist verbiage from Teller, yes he gets the annoying character here (more on that later), the trio heads out for an epic night on the town. Even at this point you are still with the story, it’s not bad and already has been slightly un-PC with some hits and misses. The turning point hits with a terribly cliche and awful invasion of a sorority house and the film spirals out of control and gets worse from there. The pranks become predictable and even lazy up to an ending that is awful and will have you leaving the theater shaking your head. And the running gag of always calling Chon’s character by his full name Jeff Chang, instead of just Jeff, gets old quick and is overused to death.
Astin and Chon are actually pretty likable as they manage to bring enough goofy charm to keep you engaged with their characters throughout the film. Wright plays the gorgeous girl that for some reason falls for one of these goofs and has the textbook “bad guy” boyfriend that “has a really sweet side” though he is never played as anything other than a prick until the very end. But even she manages to perform above the script provided here. The main issue is Teller. While his work in Project X and 2010’s Rabbit Hole is quite admirable, somewhere along the line he decided that he was going to play Miller as the most unlikable prick, but without any charm or shred of likability The character gets to be very grating and the audience ends up hoping for the next sequence when we get only Nicole and Casey, or to see more of Chon’s antics without Miller taking the lead.
The film does manage to pack in a few laughs along the way, one sequence involving a co-ed (Samantha Futerman) living in Jeff’s old dorm room stands out as particularly funny, but spends more time on cliched and overused scenarios and punch lines. Animal House or Van Wilder this is not. Ultimately the film does not hit the mark, but rather falls well short of it. 21 & Over is a non-recommend.
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