My daughter turned 21 on March 1, the same day that the movie 21 and Over was released. In keeping with the theme, I thought it would be fun to celebrate my daughter’s 21st birthday by inviting her to the pre-release screening. I mean, how bad could it be? Let’s find out!
The awkward moments for me started early as high school friends Miller (Miles Teller, Footloose, Project X) and Casey (Skylar Astin, Pitch Perfect) walk across a college campus bare assed, branded and wearing only tube socks to cover their genitals. Thoughts of “this could be a long, uncomfortable evening” raced through my mind. I can’t watch this with my daughter. Thankfully, within minutes, we were laughing so much that it just didn’t matter. This movie is rude and crude but dude, what a ride.
When Jon Lucas and Scott Moore wrote The Hangover, little did we know that they were creating a new sub genre …the binge comedy. Lucas and Moore who co-wrote the screenplay, also make their directorial debuts. Although they borrowed the basic formula from their earlier success, 21 and Over shines on its own.
This variation on the Lucas/Moore formula has former high school friends Miller and Casey surprising their friend Jeff Chang (Justin Chon, Twilight) on his 21st birthday. Their plans for a night of partying get temporarily derailed by Jeff Chang’s (yes, you have to say his first and last name) father. The ultra-strict, tough as nails, Mr. Chang (Francois Chau) has pulled strings to arrange for an 8 AM interview for Jeff Chang to get into med school. It doesn’t take much, however, for Miller, the instigator of the group, to convince the birthday boy to come out for ” just one beer”.
The guys hit a local bar and one beer turns into several. They proceed to make the rounds of the campus bars in one of the funniest montage sequences I have witnessed. Included are a couple of gross out moments as Jeff Chang stands on a bar and urinates on the girls below and an extended, slow motion vomit session as he rides a mechanical bull. The night ends with a passed out Jeff Chang and his friends not remembering where he lives. Will they figure it out before Mr. Chang arrives at 7 AM to take him to his interview?
The quest to find Jeff Chang’s address include a run in with a revenge seeking Latina sorority, meeting Nicole, a potential love interest for Casey ( Sarah Wright ), raising the ire of Nicole’s yell captain boyfriend, Randy ( Jonathan Keltz) and his two pep squad yes men, avoiding a rampaging Buffalo, making their way through the Tower of Power, a progressive series of college drinking games, and busting Jeff Chang out of a psych ward.
Lucas and Moore do a great job depicting the depravity of the evening but fall a little short on the B story. Miller discovers a gun in Jeff Chang’s coat. The guys discover that his life may not be as together as they imagined. As secrets unfold, they start to question the validity of their friendships. I guess my only complaint is that the movie tries to be too much. As a raucous college tale, it rocks. As a poignant story about friendship, meh.
Miles Teller shines as the charming, say anything until you get them to agree, instigator of the story. His performance reminds me of a young Vince Vaughn. The friction between his devil may care portrayal of Miles and Skylar Astin’s buttoned down portrayal of Casey provides for much of the comedic element. All three leads give their all, including their clothes, in the performance.
If Seth McFarlane’s Oscar performance offended you, you probably want to sit this one out. But, if you want to leave your cares behind and laugh for 90 minutes, definitely check out 21 and Over.