The writers of The Hangover make their directorial debut by tackling familiar ground in 21 & Over, which opens this weekend! But is it a worthwhile comedy or just a lame cash-in? 411's Nolan Woodford checks in with his full review!
Miller: Miles Teller Casey: Skylar Austin Jeff Chang: Justin Chon Nicole: Sarah Wright Randy: Jonathan Keltz Dr. Chang: François Chau Julian: Daniel Booko Jayden: Russell Mercado The Chief: Russell Hodgkinson
Relativity Media presents a film written and directed by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore. Rated R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, some graphic nudity, drugs and drinking. Running Time: 1 hour, 33 minutes Release Date: March 1, 2013
Hollywood's search for the next great teen/college comedy is never ending. The kids who had just started high school when Superbad was released are now about to turn 21, and a group of elementary school students has replaced them. Every studio wants to be responsible for the new generation's raunchy teenage comedy of choice, like American Pie or Road Trip over a decade ago. Jon Lucas and Scott Moore - writers of The Hangover, making their directorial debuts - take a stab at making the newest generation's cult hit.
21 and Over is not that movie. But it's still sort of funny.
The film marks Jeff Chang's (Chon) introduction to the world of - you guessed it - being 21 and Over. He plans on staying in to prepare for a medical school interview, per his strict father's (Chau) wishes. Jeff Chang's oldest friends, Miller (Teller) and Casey (Astin) refuse to allow that, planning to take him out for an unforgettable night he won't be able to remember. Of course, this is an R-rated comedy, so something's bound to go horribly wrong. In fact, 21 and Over opens with Miller and Casey walking naked across the campus, agreeing that "None of this ever happened."
Jeff Chang (21 and Over goes to great lengths to ensure he's called by his full name at all times) drinks enough to pass out and - in what results in something of an homage to Weekend at Bernie's - it's up to his two friends to get him home. They can't remember where that is, not having the address handy. The comedy of errors is sparked by a visit to a female friend (Wright) and her unruly boyfriend (Keltz), which results in a running gag involving a Hispanic sorority trying to give Jeff Chang's pals what's coming to them. 21 and Over offers reminders of the Harold and Kumar franchise with some of its racially charged humor, but actually alienates the pothead demographic by referring to a couple of stoners in the movie as losers.
A movie like this is made or broken on the likability of its lead characters, and 21 and Over offers enough to get by. The three leads don't stray very far from the formula - the two friends, one who is less successful and likes to party more than the other and their inexperienced friend who gets to unleash his wild side - but manage to get their fair share of laughs. The characters of Casey and Nicole have good chemistry when the film attempts to add a romantic subplot, but the 29-year-old Sarah Wright clearly has several years on her co-stars. There aren't many gutbusting moments, but enough warmth that you hope the answer to the question, "Did we just kill Jeff Chang?" is "No."
If anything, when 21 and Over fails the most is the moments where it tries too hard. A scene where a tampon is mistaken for a candy bar is more stupid than funny and feels like a desperate attempt to scrape together enough laughs for a full-length feature. One stupid gag that does work, however, is the random comings-and-goings of the drugged-out Chief (Hodgkinson). There's enough in 21 and Over that works to keep the pace moving, although it clearly starts to run out of gas in its final act.
The 411: 21 and Over tries to enter the ranks of some of the 21st century's great R-Rated comedies like The Hangover and Superbad, but falls short of those lofty expectations. While its trio of misfits are up to the challenge, there are too many forced moments and not many more funny gags than what you can see in the trailer. There's nothing here to put 21 and Over into the upper echelon of young raunchy comedies, but it's probably worth a rental or matinée price if you're in need of a few cheap laughs.