In theory, 21 and Over is supposed to be raunchy and a little shocking. It’s chock full of the usual raunchy party movie staples — booze, expletive-laced dialogue, gratuitous nudity — but it’s all old hat at this point. (The most offensive part of 21 and Over is that it makes me look like a prude as I rail against its juvenilia.) Look, I’m all for swearing and pointless exercises in nakedness, but you’ve got to be clever about it. This is 2013. We were supposed to have flying cars and personal jetpacks at this point, and instead we’re left with regressive, recycled junk. Canterbury Tales had fart jokes 500 years ago; let’s get on with it.
Regardless, 21 and Over puts little effort into originality. Written and directed by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, who scribed The Hangover (2009), we basically get a rehash of that film. Instead of a bachelor party, we get the surprise 21st birthday of stressed out pre-med student Jeff Chang (Justin Chon, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1), thrown by his old high school buddies Miller (Miles Teller, Footloose) and Casey (Skylar Astin, Pitch Perfect). With Jeff’s med school interview scheduled for first thing in the morning coupled with his inability to hold his drinks that night and the fact that Miller and Casey have no clue where his house is, the hi-jinks inevitably ensue.
By sheer force of will, a few of the jokes work, but the bulk of 21 and Over feels like lots of other just-as-bad teen/frat/college party comedies: mostly just overly-aggressive and tactless. Even our main characters feel like they were picked from a Sears catalog of movie clichés, with Miller being the vulgar, cocky one and Casey the uptight, cautious prig. Since this is a movie built on being unlikable, no one’s easy to warm up to here. In the film’s favor, there are attempts at giving the film some heart, as the story is really about growing up and the ways in which we lose touch with our closest friends. Unfortunately, the treatment of these growing pains is far too heavy-handed, especially when you realize the theme was handled much more deftly — even made bittersweet — in Greg Mottola’s Superbad (2007). There’s no identity here, just crassness for the sake of crassness. When people complain about the lack of originality in Hollywood, they’re talking about films like 21 and Over. Rated R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, some graphic nudity, drugs and drinking.
Playing at Carolina Asheville Cinema 14, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande, United Artists Beaucatcher Cinema 7