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21 and Over

By Kathryn Schroeder
Released: March 1, 2013
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Synopsis
Straight-A college student Jeff Chang has always done what's expected of him. But when his two best friends Casey and Miller surprise him with a visit for his 21st birthday, he decides to do the unexpected for a change, even though his critical medical school interview is early the next morning. What was supposed to be one beer becomes one night of chaos, over indulgence and utter debauchery in this outrageous comedy.
Film Review
Production
When a movie about heterosexual college guys celebrating their childhood friends 21st birthday has more shots of bare male buttocks and sock-covered penises than topless and/or nude women you should know there is a serious problem. Especially when its rated R. 21 and Over is that movie. A hapless effort by "the writers of The Hangover" that is so nonsensical it actually makes sense--in that it has absolutely no clear thought or purpose except to illustrate how not to make a college centered comedy, or one about turning the momentous age of 21.

Casey (Skylar Astin), Miller (Miles Teller, the dancing goof from 2011's Footloose remake), and Jeff Chang (Justin Chong) were best friends in high school. They have since grown apart after going to different colleges and pursuing different life paths. Now in their Senior year, Jeff Chang is turning 21, finally, and Miller and Casey show up at his idyllic University to take him out on the town to celebrate. It also just happens to be the night before a very important medical school interview--very original, I know. This is the point where things are meant to get crazy--the only way they can in college when heavy amounts of alcohol are involved. But wait, after twenty minutes or so of binge drinking and lots of awkward hugging between the guys, plus an "almost" bar fight happening, Jeff Chang passes out drunk. That's not good, especially when Casey and Miller don't know where he lives; even though they took a cab to his home hours earlier. Taking a page from the 80s classic Weekend At Bernie's, Casey and Miller spend the rest of the night carrying Jeff Chang around with them, like a dead body that occasionally mutters something that is meant to be funny, as they try and search for someone who knows where Jeff Chang lives.

In case you have not noticed, I am always referring to the character of Jeff Chang by his full name, while Miller and Casey do not have their surnames mentioned. This is because in 21 and Over Jeff Chang is always referred to as Jeff Chang, by Miller and Casey. Its a redundant and irritating occurrence that should have a purpose, be part of a larger joke at some point, but as 21 and Over is full of vacuousness this is just one of many things that is pointless in the film. It serves no purpose to the plot and only aggravates a viewer as to the awkwardness of having your best friends call you by your full name. You may as well be watching a movie where the main character continually refers to himself in the third person--imagine how quick that would get annoying, times it by fifty, and you have the "Jeff Chang" usage in 21 and Over.

The entire point of 21 and Over is to showcase a wild night for three old friends while they also deal with impending adulthood after graduation and how they have grown apart. No one cares. When the sentiment is thrown in, only causing dull and uneasy moments in the film that merely demonstrates the poor direction and chemistry between characters, you may find yourself praying that the fire alarm goes off. In fact, you may pray for this to happen at any time during the movie. 21 and Over should be hilarious, outrageous, full of debauchery and bare breasted women. It should epitomize everything a 21st birthday could be, in the craziest sense of the event. Instead it is one of the most trivial and boring comedies about college, coming-of-age, and being 21 you will ever see--and I hope you never see it. Save your pennies for another day, another movie--it will not take much to make it more entertaining than 21 and Over.
Directing
You hear it all the time, "the script was great but the director screwed it up during production." Well, with 21 and Over the directors are the screenwriters so they have no one to blame but themselves. Not even a great editor could save this movie, and John Refoua also edited Avatar. Jon Lucas and Scott Moore have been a writing duo for years, having written the romantic comedies Four Christmases and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, as well as The Change-Up and of course The Hangover. They should stick strictly to screenwriting. 21 and Over is so poorly directed anyone could have made this movie. You could probably find something better on YouTube--in fact, I know you can.

The characters in 21 and Over are continually awkward with one another, lines of dialogue fall flat because the actors do not know what to do with themselves as they are saving them, and the entire film is far too reliant on the comedy to keep everything going that when nearly every joke fails and the slapstick, physical comedy is rehashed again and again, having mostly been "borrowed" from far better comedies of the past, everything simply becomes a big mess. Directing is difficult, as is screenwriting, and somehow Lucas and Moore have managed to screw up both in one movie. This is not how you want to make your directorial debut, unless it shows you that directing is not something you should pursue. 21 and Over only has one strong-point, and it is thanks to Dr. Chang, played by the extremely talented Francois Chau--fans of "Lost" will remember him as Dr. Pierre Chang of the DHARMA initiative. Chau is the only actor who doesn't need direction, he hits the mark as the tough as nails, wholly frightening father of Jeff Chang in his few and far too fleeting appearances. As for everything else, Lucas and Moore missed the mark completely.
Comedy Factor
A Sock wrapped around a penis, angry Latina women forcing two men to do their bidding, or watching a man vomit in slow motion are all things that are supposed to make you laugh in 21 and Over. If they do, lucky you. How about hyper-masculine cheerleaders that may or may not be repressing their true sexuality? Yes? Then you are the target audience member for 21 and Over. If you also think its funny to watch a man eat the cotton center of a tampon then you should see it twice. While all of the aforementioned could be funny in a movie that does not mean they are in this movie. 21 and Over tries very hard in between the uncomfortable staleness of the plot to make the viewer laugh at some ludicrous or just plain pathetic act. It works about 1% of the time; the other 99% is spent hearing other people laugh in the theatre and wondering how they found that specific bit hilarious. Had Teller, Astin, and Justin Chong had a strong on-screen chemistry the jokes may have faired better, or if the physical comedy felt like it had some direction behind it--instead of the feeling that things were decided on the fly regardless of whether they were a good choice-- 21 and Over may have in fact been funny for the full 100%. Alas, the small margin of those that will laugh just can't overcome the majority that will consider walking out thirty minutes in.



Genre
Comedy
Release Date
March 1, 2013
MPAA Rating
R
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