Movie Review: "21 and Over"
Length: 93 minutes
Release Date: March 1, 2013
Directed by: Scott Moore, Jon Lucas
Stars: 3 out of 5
It is fairly normal for even the best of high school buddies to drift away and grow apart after they go to college. This is especially true when one or more of the friends go to a college that is far away from home. Such is the case with the trio of Miller (Miles Teller), Casey (Skyler Astin), and Jeff Chang (Justin Chon), three guys who neglected their friendship when Jeff went to college out of state. As all three approach the next stage of their lives, Miller and Casey get a fit of nostalgia and decide to visit Jeff at college.
The two take a road trip and conveniently show up on Jeff's twenty-first birthday, fully expecting to take him out for copious amounts of drinking. The problem is that they showed up unannounced and didn't realize that the next day is Jeff's big interview for admission to medical school. He can't afford to show up with a hangover, or else he may fail the interview, which would be very displeasing to his uptight and controlling father. Miller and Casey hit him with a double dose of peer pressure, and Jeff finally relents, though he says he will only have one drink. Of course, one leads to two and to many more, which causes the lightweight Jeff to completely pass out in a drunken haze. Miller and Casey realize they don't know if Jeff lives on-or off-campus, so they have no idea how to get him home. They pick his limp, drunk body and drag him all over campus, trying to find someone who recognizes him and knows where he lives. Along the way, they get distracted by lots of pretty coeds and frat parties, sometimes neglecting Jeff in order to have fun.
The night wears on with no end in sight to the search for poor Jeff's residence, which finally begins to worry Miller and Casey. As their high school bond is rekindled, they finally stop thinking about themselves and begin fretting over the future of their overly drunken friend. If he can't get home in time to change and make himself presentable before his big interview, it will change the trajectory of his entire life forever. Then there is another elephant in the room-even if they do find where he lives, will he be able to sober up enough to even be able to answer the interviewer's questions? If he bombs the interview, it will be just as bad as not showing up, because he still won't get into medical school. He may not get a second chance, so the two friends must find a way to save the day before it is too late.
It's no surprise that "21 and Over" has been referred to as "The Hangover" for a younger audience, because the screenwriters are the same for both films. In fact, Scott Moore and Jon Lucas wrote "21 and Over," "The Hangover," and its sequel "The Hangover Part II," so they are practically experts at this type of material. All three films center on a trio of friends who must fix the mayhem they caused because of too much drinking and debauchery, though that is where the similarities end. "The Hangover" deals with the aftermath and uses detective work to recall tiny pieces of the night before, whereas "21 and Over" actually shows you everything that went on during that fateful night. This makes the film much more straightforward, which allows the audience to relax without doing any guesswork.
Instead of writing the script and then handing over directing duties to Todd Phillips like they did with "The Hangover," Lucas and Moore have take on the directorial duties for the film. This marks the directing debut for both writers, who both clearly paid attention to Phillips when they were on set with him. They have some similarities in how they frame their shots, which helps make a few of the sight gags even funnier than they could have been. They also don't mind casting leads who aren't superstars, although in the case of "The Hangover," all three leads went on to become big movie stars. The same may or may not happen to the three leads of "21 and Over," but the film is sure to get them more recognition and work.
Lucas and Moore clearly love comedies, and they borrow from a few movies like "Weekend at Bernie's" and the "American Pie" series as homage to those films. The result is a melding of comedy film tropes and adolescent high jinks that manages to feel funny as well as fresh. This is pure escapist entertainment that unapologetically wants to gross you out as much as it wants to make you laugh. The filmmakers clearly accomplished both these tasks in spades with "21 and Over." Trailer here!