The Hangover writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore try their hand at directing with the latest party film 21 & Over. The result is something that’s not as offensively bad as say Project X, but something that’s just kind of mediocre all around, with a brief bright spot or two. 21 & Over should appeal to its target audience just fine, but anyone else looking for a wild and crazy party movie for the ages might want to look elsewhere.
Casey (Miles Teller) and Miller (Skylar Astin) are former best buddies from high school. Since graduation they’ve both gone their separate ways through college, but on their friend Jeff Chang’s (Justin Chon) 21st birthday they decide to get back together and take him out for a night that he won’t forget…. or remember?
21 & Over follows your typical party movie structure, with a short and obnoxiously sweet introduction to our core characters, followed by a jam-packed night of drinking, drinking and well uh, more drinking. Seriously, 21 & Over is given that title for a reason and The Hangover writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore wisely choose to focus on the heavy and excessive drinking that most college students will endure at one point in time during their early adult lives.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned from Lucas and Moore’s first directed film it’s that they know how to hold a camera and capture the madness just fine, but they struggle when it comes to writing dialog that extends beyond the words “dude” and “bro”. And that’s not even the kicker either. See, the film takes place in the college environment, so that kind of talk is at the very least expected, but then they attempt to transform their simple-minded party-hard film into a story about the strength of friendships and how life isn’t just about growing up, but it’s also about having fun.
It’s a twisted little spin that might have played out if it wasn’t following a group of idiots breaking into sorority houses and essentially being the worst friends possible to begin with.
Skylar Astin and Miles Teller play the ying and yang opposites. Astin is the responsible one with a bright future and a set of goals that he’s actively following, while Teller is the lazy party animal that just wants to reminisce with old friends for one night. You should be able to figure out which one spews off the vulgar dialog and which one has the soft heart for the girl that comes into play early on.
As the night unfolds the two realize that their old high school buddy Jeff Chang isn’t the same person that he used to be. Certain things come to light that make them question what’s really going on with Chang and it all comes bubbling over during the film’s long-awaited finale.
Lucas and Moore prove to be decent directors, but still not the greatest of writers. Some jokes in the film work great, like a comment regarding all fraternity members being angry and secretly gay setting the tone early on, only to be followed by several jokes and gags that are over-played and stay on the screen for way too long. A specific one comes to mind that involves a tampon and Mr. Chang thinking its candy. It’s funny for the first 30 seconds, but then it gets old and yet Lucas and Moore continue to hang onto it until the very last laugh in the theater comes trickling out.
They continue to deliver this uneven balance of humor for the rest of the film, until they cut their losses and attempt an ending with an awkward amount of sincerity. This wouldn’t feel so weird had it been tagged onto literally any other film, but when attached to 21 & Over it definitely feels forced.
The characters are never as detestable and downright disgusting as the ones portrayed in Project X, yet they never warm up to you quite like the guys in The Hangover. All three of the leads best represent a trio of college guys that you’d have no problem partying with, but would probably not want to keep in constant contact with.
21 & Over feels very much like a movie that isn’t bad or mean enough to speak up against, but it’s also not very good. Your taste in R-rated raunchy comedy will have to act as a measurement of quality for this film, because while I love R-rated comedies I tend to stick to ones that are a little more clever or a lot more focused on being one film or another.
I hate when films like this start out as funny party flicks with simple meanings and then attempt to drop on some heavier message towards the end. Nine times out of ten it comes across as false and only makes the film worse over time.
When it’s all said and done, I’d still suggest the film to those that enjoyed the trailers, because it’s just an extension of that with more cursing and nudity added in.
21 & Over – 6/10