Before I go into this review, I’d like to point out how incredibly awesome it was to see my school, the University of Washington, as the setting for this movie. There is hardly a location on campus that isn’t on screen at some point in time, and for that reason alone I definitely recommend any of my fellow UW students out there to give this one a shot. Even for other natives at the Pacific Northwest who aren’t familiar with the school there are plenty of Washingtonian nods to go around; from a Sasquatch-esque concert at the Gorge to the ever-flowing fountain of PBR, the only thing that feels out of place is the fact that I have no idea why a school in the Pacific Northwest would have a Buffalo as its mascot. All personal identification aside, 21 and Over is nowhere near the kind of films it imitates but the chemistry and natural charm of the three leads elevate the movie about the rest of the garbage out in theaters right now.
The night before his big medical school exam, a promising student celebrates his 21st birthday with his two best friends.
Like The Hangover, the majority of 21 and Over centers around three guys who are trying to recover from an excess of alcohol in time for a big event in one of the characters’ lives the next day. Also like The Hangover, the three run into situation after situation involving crazy circumstances and weird people. This creates two different sets of characters that the movie focused on; the three amigos and the insane host of supporting characters that they may or may not be running from.
The first group is the biggest reason why I enjoyed the movie overall. Miller (Miles Teller), Casey (Skylar Astin), and Jeff Chang (Justin Chon) have a lot of chemistry together, which is almost entirely due to the actors’ contributions and not the writing which is given to them. Teller plays his part like what I imagine Vince Vaugh would be like if he were a part of the millennial generation. Jeff Chang is more of a limp, slobbering waste of skin for the better part of the movie but I actually really liked the mystery of what the hell is up with his character. My personal favorite would still have to be Astin though. I first saw him in last year’s surprise hit Pitch Perfect, and he brings all of the charming dorkiness of that role into 21 and Over. His character’s quest for the heart of the equally witty Nichole (Sarah Wright aka Millicent Gergich from Parks and Recreation) is predictable, but it’s at least fun to watch.
If I tried to cover the cornacopia of wtf that is the rest of film’s characters, I’d be here all night. All I’ll say is that none of them are anywhere near the same level as hilarious as The Hangover‘s lineup, no matter how hard they try. If anything, the movie introduces way too many people for the leads to be running away from, none of which have the sort of weirdly hilarious appeal that Ken Jeong had in… you know what I’m going to say.
While the writing peppers in a decent amount of funny material, the vast majority of the laughs here will come from shock value and the comedic talents of the cast than the effectiveness of the writing itself. In fact, the biggest laughs of the theater came when we see Miller and Casey trying to pry a glued teddy bear from Jeff Chang’s naughty bits. As a quick hint, if your most effective comedy comes from showing the audience someone’s junk, you may be in the wrong line of work.
As a side note, I’m not usually one to get easily offended but I couldn’t help but feel like a few jokes the movie makes go a bit over the line. In one specific example, Miller and Casey sneak Jeff Chang into a sorority house and hide in a room where two blindfolded girls believe them to be one of the house’s ritual masters. Miller’s inner 12 year old is intrigued, and he proceeds to not only spank the girls but also to force them to make out with eachother under the guise of it being a mandatory part of the ritual. Maybe I missed the day when using power to coerce someone into performing a sexual act ceased to become a version of rape. Along with some pretty obviously homophobic scenes involving the “gross-out” factor of Miller and Casey being forced to kiss eachother, I can definitely understand it if a lot of people are turned off by the movie’s lack of tact.
The Verdict: 6.5/10 – Perfectly Adequate
+ Great chemistry between Teller, Astin and Chon
+ Occasionally really funny, even if it’s often not something you’re proud of laughing at
– Weighed down with the comparison it forces between itself and The Hangover
– Predictable plot and an over-abundance of lame antagonists
Rotten Tomatoes: 31%
Entertainment Maven: “Not a Recommend”
The Movie Raver: 5.0/10
Dan The Man Movie Reviews: 2.0/10