- Rated R
All photos © Relativity Media
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
ver since “The Hangover” became a box office hit, there have been an alarming number of movies centered on a group of friends getting blackout drunk and embarking on a night of crazy hijinks. It’s not exactly a novel idea, but as filmmakers tried to constantly one-up each other in the chaos and destruction department, it eventually resulted in a movie like “Project X” getting made. Thankfully, “21 and Over” is nothing like the found footage film, but instead falls somewhere in between “Superbad” and “Weekend at Bernie’s,” balancing the wacky moments with actual character development. The fact that the movie is written and directed by “Hangover” scribes Jon Lucas and Scott Moore adds to its appeal, and though “21 and Over” is hardly a classic in the making, it’s a surprisingly entertaining addition to the college party genre.
Pre-med student Jeff Chang (Mike Chon) doesn’t have big plans for his 21st birthday, instead resigned to staying home and getting some rest in preparation for an important medical school interview the following morning. But when his two best friends from high school, Miller (Miles Teller) and Casey (Skylar Astin), show up on his doorstep looking to party, Jeff Chang (who's always referred to by his full name) is coerced into going out for a few drinks. But what starts out as a casual pub crawl quickly evolves into a wild night of debauchery when Jeff Chang passes out and the guys have no idea how to get him home. Afraid of what Jeff Chang's stern father (Francois Chau) might do if he misses the interview, Miller and Casey head out on an adventure across campus to find someone that knows where Jeff Chang lives, causing all kinds of trouble along the way.
Obviously, it’s a little ridiculous to suggest that a big college campus wouldn’t have a student directory with Jeff Chang's address that Miller and Casey could easily access, but if you don’t mind suspending your disbelief for the film’s brisk 93-minute runtime, “21 and Over” is pretty fun. The screenplay by co-directors Lucas and Moore can be somewhat juvenile at times, but the three lead actors are so likeable that they make it work. Miles Teller is essentially the annoying Vince Vaughn character of the movie (the “Swingers” variety, before he became a parody of himself), while Skylar Astin, hot off his breakthrough role in “Pitch Perfect,” provides balance as the straight-laced member of the trio. Justin Chon doesn’t get nearly as much to do, but when he’s not being dragged around campus like Bernie Lomax, the “Twilight” actor earns some of the best laughs.
It would be easy to compare “21 and Over” to “The Hangover” because of Lucas and Moore’s involvement, but despite boasting a similar wild streak as the Todd Phillips comedy – including an epic, eight-level beer game party and a disastrous altercation with a vengeful Latina sorority – the film also features some real heart and life-and-death stakes sandwiched between all the crazy hijinks. It’s about more than just getting drunk with your friends, but how those seemingly unbreakable bonds are never truly the same after high school. And although the movie takes a while to get going, once the drinking commences, "21 and Over" delivers its fair share of laugh-out-loud moments.