21 & Over (2013) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
19Jun/130

21 & Over (2013)

HawtAndrew DISLIKE BannerThis movie is wrong.  To channel a cook, 21 & Over spends so much time assembling the ingredients for onion soup that it decides to make ice cream and pretend it's vanilla.  Just think of it, all that tangy delight frozen on your tongue with each expectant lick, only finding deeper layers of taste-based sorrow at the end of each painful motion of the tongue.  Sounds good doesn't it?

If only 21 & Over had made a damn drama instead.  The ingredients are there, charismatic long-time friends, secrets hidden from each other, and dark decisions lurking in the corners of the plot. Hell, start the film over, switch color palette to muted black and white, make the dialogue a little more obscure, and this could have been a gem burning with quiet sorrow.

Instead this is an incredibly dumb, wannabe subversive but ultimately offensive, comedy from the screenwriting team who brought us The Hangover.  Are you surprised if I tell you that the movie starts roughly as it ends with our heroes walking across campus clad only in tube socks with their butts freshly branded vowing to never speak of the night again?  If the answer is yes then, congratulations, you've paid attention to the next wave in comedy.  If no, other sources of depression await you.

No need to bring Kubrick into this.

No need to bring Kubrick into this.

21 & Over made me long for the simple times of teenagers just wanting to get laid before going to college.  Now those teenagers are in college and the plot of is about them wanting to do one last crazy thing before driving off in their waiting minivans into middle age and beyond.  The ringleader is Miller (Miles Teller), whose basic philosophy in life involves a rush to nirvana by describing sex acts with as many cultural stereotypes as possible.  His charm leads Casey (Skylar Astin), a goodie goodie financier in training, and Jeff Chang (Justin Chon), stressed pre-med student who lives under his father's (Francois Chau) thumb, into a wild night to celebrate Jeff's 21st birthday and struggling to get Jeff home for his med-school interview.

Miller is the worst possible character for this comedy.  He's the worst kind of intellectual there is, lobbing as many racially and culturally based insults at people as quick as possible to show that he's not playing favorites.  But all of this comes from an intense sense of self-inflicted isolation and anger at the people he feels as though left him.  In a different film his many attempts at being a funny bigot are as frequent as they are stupid and misguided.  Instead he's beyond touch, the smart motormouth who ultimately gets his friends to where they want to be in life.  I just wish he could have said something that made me laugh.

Other mistakes involve the level of physical comedy a lot of the film is pitched at.  There's no cartoon overplay here, a lot of the physical violence that threatens Miller and the gang is very real.  Early on they accidentally hit a brutish jerk who will haunt them the rest of the film with a dart.  He responds by hitting poor Jeff Chang with a bar stool.  In case you have become averse to visual stimuli and need to know Jeff was hit the soundtrack gives us a nice wet thunk as the stool hits him.  There's no joke, just a casual observation that drunk folks can get violent.  Great comedic material, eh?

This was low on my list of visuals to anticipate.

This was low on my list of visuals to expect.

Occasionally the film takes detours into overt references to movies so much better that they must have been in the creative team's DVD player shortly before each day's shoot.  One moment involves Casey and Miller enacting a scene from Eyes Wide Shut as punishment for a legit sex crime they committed earlier.  If the earlier crime wasn't so heinous, this could be used for a joke, but instead they just reenact a previous humiliation they put two girls through.  Funny, or the way that the sins visited on one can be replicated on another?  More choice comedy material here.

Picking the parts I find most disgusting are easy.  But even amidst all the ugliness there is a good story here about how friends learn to see that they are each drowning in pain and what they need to climb out of it.  Jeff's story involves a lot of obvious warning signs that he is about to kill himself, each delivered with the right amount of weight to show that Casey and Miller don't know their friend anymore.  Then the ending comes in and all the suicide signs are just set ups for another gag.  Totes hilarious guys.

Directors, and screenwriters, Jon Lucas and Scott Moore should count their blessings that they have a cast as talented as this.  Miles Teller, especially, has to deliver a lot of painful dialogue but manages to convey it with such a self-destructive willingness to please and push boundaries that he nearly salvages the character.  It's just not enough.  The most promising thing about 21 & Over is that between this and the abominable Project X, Teller has hit both the teenage and college-age comedy raunch categories.

This advice is best shared with everyone, time to drop the genre and move on.

21 and Over - Tail21 & Over (2013)
Screenplay written and directed by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore.
Starring Miles Teller, Skylar Astin, and Justin Chon.

Posted by Andrew

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