Coming from the creative minds of The Hangover writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, 21 and Over opens with a lingering shot of two men, casually strolling through the neighbourhood with no clothes on, only a mere sock to protect their dignity. With red marks on their body and scars from the night before – the viewer is aware that they’ve been on an adventure of sorts, as we then enter a flashback of how these two ordinary guys managed to find themselves in such a curious situation. It’s fair to say that writers and co-directors Lucas and Moore have run out of ideas somewhat.
The rather unfortunate pair in question are Miller (Miles Teller) and Casey (Skylar Astin), two old school friends who reunite at the latter’s college. With a wild evening planned, first they have to persuade their old buddy Jeff Chang (Justin Chon) to join them during the evening of his 21st birthday. However, following strict instructions from his stern father, Jeff Chang has to be home at a respectable time, with an important job interview the following morning. But when the alcohol flows and the parties begin, getting Jeff Chang home safe and well becomes more of an issue for Miller and Casey than they had initially envisaged.
Although certainly funny on occasion, 21 and Over brings absolutely nothing new to the genre whatsoever; so heavily influenced by the likes of The Hangover and Superbad, that it’s a struggle to pinpoint any clear innovation of any kind. Even our three protagonists completely shadow the Superbad collective. We have the “normal” one in Casey – who has his romantic sub-plot to deal with. Then we have the obscene, vulgar one in Miller, while Jeff Chang represents the meek, diffident member of the group, the “McLovin”.
However, unlike Superbad, we don’t find ourselves endeared to the leads, and rather than be charming in their inability to conduct themselves properly in public, instead it’s all rather irritating and repulsive – a shame as it’s imperative to fully support and sympathise with the lead roles in a film such as this. In Superbad they’re all sort of pathetic, whereas in 21 and Over they’re verging on being cool, which is not cool. The performances themselves are mostly harmless, as Astin treads a thin line between being funny and charming, with terribly sentimental mawkishness. He was the same in Pitch Perfect – he certainly has good comic timing, but when the romantic narrative takes precedence he verges on the unbearable.
Disaster comedies where one supposedly simple event turns into a complete catastrophe for all involved can truly go one of two ways. They can be good, riotous fun – like Planes, Trains and Automobiles, or Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle. However they can also be terrible, like The Sitter, and regrettably this leans towards the latter. Such a variety of comedy can just feel so contrived and rather than be farcical, becomes annoyingly unbelievable.
That said, 21 and Over does certainly make you laugh at points, with a handful of memorable scenes that have you giggling shamelessly. The comedy does steer towards cheap gags however with offensive humour, and no-one is safe from being the butt of a distasteful joke. Such a brand of comedy is acceptable if intelligent and provocative – take South Park, for example. However this is purely gratuitous and in some parts, highly unnecessary.
It’s difficult to tell you what you don’t already know about 21 and Over. It’s a silly comedy that is rife with influences from those that came before, and does all it can to appeal to its targeted audience of teenage boys, who, in fairness, are likely to enjoy this film no end. However, sadly the same can’t be said for anyone over the age of 18. Suddenly The Hangover Part III doesn’t seem too exciting after all.