You should know exactly what you’re getting when you walk into “21 and Over” because the title explains it all. It’s another teen comedy that romanticizes the 21st birthday threshold and treats alcohol like it’s an all healing elixir. This isn’t a movie for those old enough to have actually experienced the night though. This is for those who dream about the day they can pop out their driver’s license and strut into a bar legally for the first time ever.
Those people will find “21 and Over” amusing, while in the process building up their dream birthday night even further, but the older crowd will walk out of this unimpressed, finding the shenanigans the characters get themselves into to be outlandish, despite some inevitable reminiscing on some of their own crazy nights. But what kills this movie from the same writers of “The Hangover” isn’t that it’s absurd (so was The Hangover); it’s that it’s not funny. At all.
Jeff Chang (Justin Chon) is a pre-med student, pressured into becoming a doctor by his pushy father (Francois Chau). In the morning, he has a very important medical school interview, so he needs to stay in and get some sleep, but it’s his 21st birthday and his best friends, Miller (Miles Teller) and Casey (Skylar Astin), have surprised him with a visit and have other plans.
Although they promise to have him home at a reasonable time, they end up getting him completely wasted. Soon, Jeff can’t even speak and they don’t know where he lives. Miller and Casey quickly find themselves in a race against time, doing their best to get Jeff hope and prepped so he doesn’t miss the most important interview of his life.
Writing a comedy must be hard. Comedy screenwriters typically aren’t consistent, at least not in the way a dramatic writer like Aaron Sorkin is. No, they can produce a hit, one that manages to keep the laughs coming at a consistent pace, but that in no way guarantees they”ll be anything more than a one hit wonder. Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, the writers of “21 and Over” can attest to that.
A quick glance at their filmography shows writing credits for “Four Christmases,” “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past,” “The Change-Up,” “The Hangover” and “The Hangover Part II”. Precisely one of those movies was funny enough to be good. If their last couple movies are any indication, what they’re doing now is no secret. They’re trying to capture the magic that was “The Hangover,” but comedy requires surprise. It requires fresh ideas, not rehashes. They basically remade “The Hangover” with “The Hangover Part II” and now they’ve done it again with 21 and Over.
As with “The Hangover” movies, the story here revolves around a mystery: where exactly does Jeff live? They’re give clues of course, but they’re so blatantly obvious, it’s insulting. When the characters finally figure it out 45 minutes to an hour after you already have, it means nothing. The story exists solely as a means for the characters to get in wacky situations and force as much alcohol down their throats as possible. This gives way to slow motion puking and the eating of a tampon, which, I suppose if you’re really that drunk, could look like a candy bar.
This type of humor is of the lowest form. It grosses out to gain laughs, it tries to convince that the mere sight of a naked man is somehow funny and it overvalues the otherwise normal day that is someone’s 21st birthday by devaluing things that actually matter like friendship and happiness.
“21 and Over” is the most wrongheaded party movie since last year’s “Project X,” which shared a similar skewed view of the world, one that would be easy to dismiss were it not so sad. I don’t want to over exaggerate; this is not a cinematic travesty-it contains at least a few legitimate laughs-but it’s repulsive, immature and poorly written. It’s a retread of Lucas and Moore’s previous work, so why waste your time with it when the same, but superior film exists elsewhere?