’21 and Over’ fails as badly as ‘The Hangover Part II’
I am a big fan of good R-rated comedies. I am one of those guys with an edgier sense of humor who can appreciate a film that is a little raunchy around the edges. Some of the classics, like Fast Times at Ridgemont High or Animal House set a pretty high bar. More recent offerings like The Hangover and Wedding Crashers have some flat-out rolling-in-the aisles funny moments in them as well.
I had big warning signs going into 21 and Over, the latest entry into the R-rated comedy sweepstakes. First of all, the tag line for the movie from writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore is “from the writers of the Hangover comes a new comedy.” I am always reluctant when the selling point of a film is that it has a connection to another film that is not a sequel or prequel of some sort. Strike two against 21 and Over happened when the trailer package contained not one but two ads for movies that prominently featured Lindsay Lohan; I couldn’t help but wonder if I could possibly enjoy a movie whose target market was Lindsay Lohan fans.
In addition to writing 21 and Over Lucas and Moore also served as directors, which is the first time either one has worked in that role. That final strike proved too much for the movie to overcome.
21 and Over is the story of three high school friends who have lost touch in their college years that decide to get together to celebrate the 21st birthday of Jeff Chang (Justin Chon, Twilight). Jeff is joined by his class clown buddy Miller (Miles Teller, Footloose, Project X) and his straight-arrow, has the rest of his life planned out friend Casey (Skylar Astin, Pitch Perfect). Miller and Casey convince their friend Jeff Chang that it is essential to celebrate his 21st birthday in spite of an early Med School interview the next morning. After a long evening of bar crawling Jeff passes out, leaving his two friends struggling to find his apartment while carrying him around town. This of course leads to hi jinks and misadventures as they work to find the way home with their unconscious friend in tow.
It is obvious from the beginning of this movie that a studio paid Lucas and Moore to do whatever they could to recreate the magic of The Hangover. The opening shot shows the aftermath of the evening’s travels on Miller and Casey as they stride nude (minus a sock strategically placed for a measure of modesty) across the campus to retrieve Jeff in hopes of getting him to his interview on time to avoid angering his overbearing father (Francois Chau). The movie then cuts to a flashback for the action from the previous night that led to the opening shot before coming back to present to resolve the conflicts.
Sound familiar? In trying to be The Hangover this movie fails miserably. The first-time directors never really establish a rhythm or connect with their audience. The writing lacks any originality and really seemed to be the standard cliché plot that you see in a movie like this. Angry mob chasing our heroes? Check. Drinking and drinking game montage? Check. Hot girl with a jerk boyfriend that antagonizes the good guys? Check. Naked Asian guy running around? Check.
If there was an R-rated comedy kit this would be a movie made from it; it is strictly a paint-by-the-numbers job in every way. The beginning of the film was very awkward as the main characters spent way too much time regurgitating their origin stories in a way that seems extremely forced and uncomfortable. The script is at its worst when it tries to establish a semi-serious sub plot around the mid way point.
The directing is also lacking when compared with the movie it was spawned from. Todd Phillips did a great job of making his shots beautiful in The Hangover, taking full advantage of the Vegas scenery and contrasts between the strip and the desolation of the desert. There is really no great composition in this–frankly there were some really odd edits in the film that looked really choppy. I saw this in a digital theatre and there was not a single shot that jumped off the screen at you, and some of it just looked bad.
The acting in this one really did not help matters very much. Jeff spends a good deal of the movie passed out and Justin Chon was decent during the scenes when his character was conscious, but didn’t really do enough to warrant praise (He was certainly no Terry Kiser). Miller was a character that was written with a Vince Vaughn-type in mind but Miles Teller could just never establish the timing and the dry, deadpan delivery that is required to make that character go. Skyler Astin as Casey was alright but he was playing the straight man for most of the film so he didn’t really have much to work with.
The female lead in this is Sarah Wright (House Bunny), and while very pretty she is basically an afterthought that has little impact in the movie as anything other than a plot device. None of the characters are compelling or really even that likable. At the end of the film you have no real emotional investment in whether the characters resolve their issues and the actors playing them didn’t really seem to care either.
The worst thing I can say about this movie is that it just is not funny. There is no single joke in this film that made me laugh beyond maybe a chortle. For 93 minutes I sat there expecting to see something really funny but it never came. The movie comes off as a rip off of The Hangover with elements of films like Harold and Kumar and Weekend at Bernie’s mixed in to shake it up a little. This movie never lives up to its predecessors and just falls short on its own merits in every possible way.
I can point you to 20 movies in the genre that you can get from your local Redbox that are funnier than this one. They have many of the same jokes and they are executed better. Even last year’s Project X is a comic masterpiece when compared with this failed attempt at mediocrity.
21 and Over is Rated R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, graphic nudity, drugs and drinking. It’s 93 minutes long.
PM&S’ VERDICT–Dear God, at least wait till in comes on cable and save yourself some scratch.
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