The writers of The Hangover (2009) make their directorial debut with a film that’s, well…the same film set on a college campus. If that sounds like a good time to you, then 21 and Over is likely your kind of movie. It’s kind of middle ground between the 2009 hit film and Project X (2012), if that makes sense. Writers/directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore manage to add some interesting absurdity to the proceedings, but too often they’re trying to copy themselves, and the results are pretty mediocre, which probably has something to do with the law of diminishing returns. They do show a bit of an aptitude for direction and hopefully can find an original premise in the future to work with, but as it stands this is a debut that’s lacking. I often found myself wondering if the jokes were actually meant to be funny. overall it’s just not funny enough. What should have been an audacious laugh riot, or at least was designed to be one, winds up being a consistent disappointment for your funny bone.
The plot centers around a trio of former best friends from high school reuniting to show one of them a good time at college for their 21st birthday. Miller (Miles Teller), the wild party guy with no sense of responsibility or morals, and Casey (Skylar Astin), the uptight type, are getting back together after not seeing each other in years in order to meet up with Jeff Chang (Justin Chon) and give him a night to remember. Jeff is stressed because his intimidating father (François Chau) is forcing him to go to med school, and after a bit of convincing (mainly by Miller), they all go out drinking. Miller and Jeff start doing shots, but Casey is smitten by a sorority girl named Nicole (Sarah Wright). Just as he seems to be making headway, Miller and Jeff (the latter of whom is now black-out drunk) get into some trouble and they all need to bail. The problem is, Jeff has passed out and neither Miller nor Casey know how to get back to Jeff’s place. This leads to tons of shenanigans, some involving Nicole, as the boys try to get Jeff back home safely. For everyone, it’s going to be a night to remember, complete with sororities, nudity, and a branding iron, plus lots more.
I didn’t find the acting memorable in the least, but the best of the bunch is Miles Teller, playing a part worlds away from his role in ‘Rabbit Hole’ a few years back. He’s mostly channeling Jonah Hill somewhat, but in every single way that Oliver Cooper failed at that in Project X last year (ironically also co-starring Teller in a small part), Teller mostly manages to succeed. He’s a lot of fun and clearly is having a great time, a little bit of which rubs off on the audience (not much though). That being said, he’s nowhere near as good as he is in The Spectacular Now, which I fell in love with at Sundance. Skylar Astin and Justin Chon aren’t very good though, both struggling with some of their line deliveries and coming across as more awkward than intended (though Astin has a good back and forth with Teller and Chon is amusing in his drunken stupor later in the flick). As for Sarah Wright, she has very little to do and is unmemorable, while François Chau is a one note hard-ass father. The rest of the cast includes Russell Hodgkinson and Jonathan Keltz, but no one really leaves their mark aside from Teller to some degree. Still, wait for ‘The Spectacular Now’ before really judging his talent.
Jon Lucas and Scott Moore don’t establish themselves as the next great directing team to watch out for, but they’re surprisingly steady behind the camera. They pace the flick well enough and never really call attention to themselves. If only their script was as steady as their direction. Too often they set up the jokes to be similar to The Hangover, only less original if that’s possible. They also repeat their gags, diluting their already minimal effectiveness. A few scenes got a chuckle out of me, but too often I wasn’t laughing when I should have been. They also try to shoehorn in some drama, but it comes across as just lazy. This wasn’t as bad as The Change-Up, but it’s more along the mediocre lines of something like Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. I don’t know if Lucas and Moore just don’t have anything else to share with us besides this one particular sort of story, but they’re repeating themselves more than they should.
21 and Over isn’t exactly a comedy masterpiece. It likely will have some level of success due to selling itself on being from the minds of the creators of The Hangover, but that’s as much a curse as it is a blessing here. Come this weekend there will be plenty of people in line for this flick, but there’s just not a whole lot of reasons why you should see it. Those who do are almost assuredly going to be disappointed, and now that we’re out of February there are going to be better movies out there for you to choose from.
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