Monday, February 18, 2013

Charmless Stupidity: 21 And Over.

The Good: Moments of humor
The Bad: Very predictable plot and character arcs, Nothing stellar on the acting front, Unlikable characters
The Basics: 21 And Overis a charmless mixture of The Hangover and Weekend At Bernie’s.

Ever since the unprecedented and unpredicted success of The Hangover (reviewed here!), virtually every comedy film tries to live up to the high bar that movie set. Unfortunately, for all the hype for any number of movies – the latest dramatic failure that tried to fill the niche was Project X (reviewed here!) – no film has really captured the spark of humor and character that The Hangover had. Even The Hangover, Part II (reviewed here!) did not manage to rise to the heights of fun or freshness that The Hangover had. So, enter 21 And Over, a film written and directed by the two writers of The Hangover. 21 And Over is being marketed as The Hangover for young people, but it falls dramatically short of being anything so interesting or original.

When I watched The Hangover, what impressed me was that the film was about a group of men who had done something irresponsible who were actually on a quest to take responsibility for their actions. At each step in the process of trying to piece together their lost night, the friends are working to right the wrongs, restore people to their proper order, and find their friend who is missing, but basically, they are trying to own up to their forgotten actions. 21 And Over is nothing so thematically smart. As the young person’s ideal of The Hangover, 21 And Over comes closer to Project X in glorifying youthful stupidity than it explores the value of responsibility and rational deduction.

Jeff Chang is preparing for an interview that will lead him to the job his demanding father has wanted for him all his life. Despite this, the appearance of Casey and Miller, his old friends from high school, lead him to go out to celebrate his 21rst birthday as they think he ought to. This means that Jeff Chang gets stupidly, black-out drunk and he does so before revealing to Casey and Miller where he lives. So, the two conscious young men have to get their insensate friend back to his house . . . without Dr. Chang learning how wrecked his son has gotten.

Unfortunately, Casey, Miller, and their unexpected ally Nicole, have no firm ideas on how to get Jeff where they need to and in the process, they lose Jeff and recover from bars, a pledging sorority, and the police.

21 And Over is a film that follows the current trend of having its best moments spoiled by the trailer. It is absolutely as predictable as it looks and complications, like the friends discovering Jeff is carrying a gun on his night out with them, are resolved in utterly simplistic ways. The threats of Dr. Chang carry weight with Miller and Casey, but are harder to take serious for the audience, which makes most of 21 And Over utterly unnecessary. Instead, 21 And Over is presented as a thinly-veiled excuse for nudity, fat jokes, and vomit gags that are not over-the-top enough to match the humor of Pitch Perfect (reviewed here!).

What could have saved 21 And Over would have been great acting and/or interesting characters, but 21 And Over has neither. Casey, Miller, and Jeff are not as close as they once were, so the whole “must celebrate 21rst birthday!” rings as a lame reason to set off the mischief they do by compelling Jeff to go out. More than that, much of their conflict comes from their unwillingness to simply tell the truth, get a direct answer, and get their friend where he needs to be. It rings as hollow, particularly immature and boring in its execution.

Even worse, none of the actors truly rise to the occasion. The momentary thrill I had at seeing Francois Chau outside Lost dissipated when his character became nothing more than a severe Asian father stereotype. Miles Teller, who was surprisingly engaging in Footloose (reviewed here!) is bland and off-his-marks in 21 And Over. Teller and Skylar Astin (Casey) have no real on-screen chemistry to insinuate how their characters were ever, genuinely friends. They have lines that indicate they were, but they actors only read those lines, not perform them. For much of the film, Justin Chon’s Jeff has only to act limp or drunk and he is adequate, but lacks any real flair to make one want to watch him or 21 And Over.

For other films with young people acting dumb, please check out my reviews of:
Sex Drive
Hamlet 2
Just My Luck


For other film reviews, please visit my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing.

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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