21 and Over – Film Review

Director(s): Jon Lucas, Scott Moore

Starring: Miles Teller, Skylar Astin and Justin Chon

Released: 3 May, 2013

If you look closely at the posters for 21 and Over, you will notice that they advertise the film as being “From the Writers of ‘The Hangover’ “. This, and the fact that they have probably seen Superbad at some point in their lives, is pretty much all you need to know about this sex ‘n booze comedy. Opening in much the same way as The Hangover, we see best friends Miller (Teller) and Casey (Astin) walking across the college grounds and they are, without spoiling anything, very much the worse for wear. “Let’s never speak of that again,” says Miller. “Never…” replies Casey. Cue flashback to the night before, when all the madness happened.

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The plot is simple: Jeff Chang (Chon) is now 21 years old. Miller and Casey decide to take him out for a night on the town, even though he has a serious job interview the next morning at 8 am. The guys plan to bring him out, have a wild night, and then get him home without his Dad finding out. Do things go wrong? Well come now, don’t they always?

The fact that 21 and Over can be adequately summarized with ‘Drunk guys get drunk’ is fairly indicative of what we’re in for. It’s a sign that the writers of The Hangover are quickly outing themselves as something of a one-trick pony. If The Hangover: Part II didn’t tip you off on that point, this boys-gone-wild booze fest certainly will. It has the flashback scenes, the clearly identifiable caricatures. Hell, it even has that revelation moment near the end, where they figure it all out and explain the situation aloud for us, the audience, and why it was all so obvious in retrospect. It may as well be Hangover: The Early Years. Which, considering the popularity of those movies, isn’t necessarily bad. Just disappointing.

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Luckily, it’s still a pretty fun ride, at times it’s even hilarious. A lot of the humor comes from Teller, as the blunt, obnoxious and perpetually horny Miller. Throw him into a latina girls sorority and just watch the casual racism fly. Casey acts as the straight man for Miller to play off of and, as a result, is pretty forgettable. It’s your standard double act that neither dives nor soars, but flies straight for the entire duration of the film, like your average Saturday night TV schedule. Brief appearances by a group of jocks, led by alpha male Randy, are particularly memorable. We’re introduced to them when Miller throws a dart at Randy’s face, and things only escalate from there to provide the film with its best running joke.

It’s a casual enough affair, but you definitely get the sense that the film is trying too hard to reach the same status as other comedy greats. Teller and Casey have this weird habit of never referring to Jeff Chang as simply ‘Jeff’. (They say ‘Jeff Chang’ no less than 9 times in the trailer alone). When you consider the fact that Jeff spends about 80% of the film unconscious, occasionally waking up to yell “Waffles” or to dance on a patrol car, it’s impossible to escape the feeling that he is being pushed into the role of the new ‘McLovin’ or maybe Brick Tamland of Anchorman fame. Admirable ambitions, but unfortunately he just doesn’t have the chops to pull it off.

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Therein lies the central problem with the film. While it does a good job with the material it has, this is all stuff we’ve seen before. American Pie, Superbad, The Hangover, hell, even Animal House. It’s obvious that it wants to play with the big boys, so much so that it’s afraid to do its own thing. Therefore, we just have a less entertaining mash-up of comedy classics that have already gone by. It does all right on its own merits, and in comparison to a lot of recent comedies, it’s not bad at all. It’s just a shame that it is so glaringly lacking in creativity.

Score: 2/5

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