21 & Over (2013)

Director:  Jon Lucas & Scott Moore
Cast:  Miles Teller, Justin Chon, Skylar Astin, Sarah Wright, Jonathan Keltz
Plot:  The night before his big medical school interview, a promising student celebrates his 21st birthday with his two best friends.

Genre:  Comedy
Awards:  -
Runtime:  93min
Rating:  M18 for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, some graphic nudity, drugs and drinking. 

21 & Over might not be in the top tier of its genre, but it is an enjoyable romp, and in particular, a striking piece on the ludicrousness of the American campus life.  If all university students behave like the characters in the film, it could possibly signal the end of the world, or maybe just America.

Anyway, the plot sees Miller (Miles Teller) and Casey (Skylar Astin) pay their good friend Jeff Chang (Justin Chon) a visit on his 21st birthday and coerce him to join them for a drink that night.  Well, that is kinda okay... but then Jeff has a very important job interview the following morning.

Written and directed by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, both of whom wrote the hit The Hangover (2009), 21 & Over is a visual articulation of very parent's worst nightmare - their kids getting high on booze, making out with the same sex, urinating at people's faces, and getting their butts slapped by members of the opposite sex.

All that (and more) plays out in the film, sometimes hilariously, at other times revoltingly, but it is all in the good name of fun, though I must stress it is not always clean fun.  It is like The Hangover, but set on campus.  It is not as funny and insane as that hit movie, but it still slaps ass nevertheless.

21 & Over is also striking because much of the narrative is propelled by Jeff's situation although the focus is on the bond between Miller and Casey as they try to salvage their Asian friend's predicament and dignity.  It is a breath of fresh air to see an Asian get such a meaty role in an otherwise low-brow American production.

The performances are adequate for the film, but don't expect much with characters playing silly throughout.  Screen chemistry among the actors then becomes crucial when acting takes a backseat.  I must say that in this case it is fairly well done.

So far most critics have panned 21 & Over.  In particular, Linda Barnard of Toronto Star commented that the film is “done to excess with the needle on the gross-out meter buried in the red”.  However, while I don't find the film possessing of any kind of quality that made raunchy comedies like Apatow’s Knocked Up (2007) or The Hangover such great and memorable entries in its genre, 21 & Over at least tries to entertain with some success.

It offers laughs, some out of crass dialogue that is racist, sexist and homophobic, while others are borne out of insane situations.  It is also fairly enjoyable for most parts and is quite tightly-paced with few dull moments.  It is in the vein of Judd Apatow, but it is not Judd Apatow.  Although considering that Apatow is somewhat declining with above-average films such as Funny People (2009) and This is 40 (2012), it would not be wrong to say that this is better than Apatow.

Verdict: Funny, ludicrous, and tightly-paced, this is a mostly enjoyable comedic romp in the vein of Judd Apatow and The Hangover.


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