Film Review: 21 and Over

No one’s having a good time during a college student’s birthday, least of all the moviegoers sitting through this film.

As offensive as 21 and Over promises to be by introducing us to guys who joke about incest and racism, the biggest offense is how dull the entire thing is. While screenwriters Jon Lucas and Scott Moore—who also wound up directing—are to blame, the reputation their earlier hits afforded them has become a selling point in commercials that let everyone know this is the latest offering "from the writers of The Hangover." Just because the filmmakers are after a younger demographic doesn’t mean moviegoers in their teens and 20s aren’t smart enough to see through the marketing hype.

Of the guys, we find that Miller (Miles Teller) ended his college years a dropout, and Casey’s (Skylar Astin) done with his schooling and about to work for a law firm. Their buddy Jeff Chang (Justin Chon) turns 21 tomorrow, although he doesn't think it’s a good idea to celebrate with them by hitting every bar that ever turned him away, since his father (François Chau) wants him to get plenty of rest for his interview at a medical school. Jeff’s still uncertain after he caves in, but how often do you turn 21?

You’d think his pals would be able to tell Jeff’s had too much to drink after he urinates all over a bunch of barflies, but that doesn’t occur to them until it’s time to go and they can’t wake him to find out where he lives. Jeff may not make it home at all—Randy (Jonathan Keltz) might get his revenge for that dart that ended up hitting him, but not if the members of a sorority the trio has enraged get their hands on them first.

The only one on their side—other than a bum (Russell Hodgkinson) wearing an American Indian headdress—is Nicole (Sarah Wright), who keeps crossing paths with the guys. That suits Casey fine, considering how close they’re getting.

If this were a better movie, Terry Stacey’s alternately clear and grainy photography of the night’s activity might have been easier to overlook, along with John Refoua’s hodgepodge editing becoming so delirious that not only are there subtle changes in what everybody’s doing, but a character may vanish from a scene altogether.

Lucas and Moore let everyone down by neglecting to build an entertaining story—most of all the actors, who try to bring believability to characters the audience probably still won’t care about. (Teller gives a particularly valiant effort toward making a racist slacker likeable.)

21 and Over does have a few things going for it, like all the eye candy that’s sure to draw the crowd it’s gunning for. Even if watching pledges experiment with lesbianism isn’t your cup of tea, there’s the make-out scene between the leads to look forward to. You even get to see them naked when it’s time to give them a paddling, which makes you wonder if somebody should’ve given one to the guys who wrote this.