Let me begin this review by admitting I’m too old to find “21 & Over” hilarious.
Then again, I was too old when I turned 23 and discovered that there was more to life than getting drunk at the bars every night. At some point you realize it’s easier to meet people if you’re not throwing up in the bushes. And when you have that revelation, there’s nobody more annoying to be around than the Party Till You Puke crowd.
So I was not exactly laughing out loud as I watched two former high school friends (Miles Teller, Skylar Astin) pull their friend Jeff Chang (Justin Chon) from his college dorm room and take him from bar to bar on his 21st birthday, getting him so drunk that he stands on one bar, drops his pants, and urinates all over the crowd. Nor was I so much as giggling when, minutes later, he projectile vomits while riding a mechanical bull at a different bar.
If YOU find such things funny, then you might be the audience that writer-directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore (“The Hangover”) had in mind with this raunchy binge-drinking movie. Then again, “Animal House” had plenty of gross-out humor, but it also had more plot than this R-rated comedy. So I take it back. Even if you like gross-out humor and like laughing at the party-till-you-puke people, you might not find enough original plotting or basic logic to hold it all together.
Let’s start with this unlikely trio’s friendship, which feels unbelievable from the start. One of them, secretly a junior college dropout, shows up on the Stanford campus to retrieve his friend while drinking a beer in the back of a cab and then telling his friend how hot he thinks his 16-year-old sister is. Stanford says he’s just been reminded of why he never calls his friend, and there’s clearly a party gap between them. One is a slacker-loser, the other a seemingly level-headed student at one of America’s top colleges. Yet they both go to another school to retrieve their friend, Jeff Chang, so they can take him out on his 21st birthday.
When Chang says the most important medical school interview of his life is the following morning and that his entire life would be ruined if he messed that up, wouldn’t good friends back off and suggest a different course of action? Not these guys. They get him so wasted that he’s doing titty shots off a big fat guy at a bar and then blowing raspberries on the guy’s beer belly. Though the writing is okay and the chemistry between the characters is decent, you never really get the feeling that these guys’ friendship would have lasted beyond high school. In fact, their personalities are so different that you really find it hard to believe they were EVER friends.
Structurally, the film isn’t just a little too much like “The Hangover Jr.” It also feels a lot like “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” only instead of doing Chicago these guys do bars and Greek parties, and rather than a tenacious principal chasing them it’s Jeff Chang’s strict father. There’s more nonsense about a sorority initiation that the guys interrupt and an even more bizarre revenge scheme, but there’s really not much else to “21 & Over.” Anyone who IS 21 and over will just shake their heads and wonder how Jeff Chang gains entry into any of these places once he’s so drunk that he flings his ID at the bouncers and has to be carried into the later bars, he’s so unresponsive. Are you kidding me? Why are the two friends, who seem perfectly sober, by the way, still taking him around town? Oh, yeah, I forgot. Because “21 & Over” is a college-age version of “The Hangover,” but with much more predictability and much less complexity and logic.
“21 & Over” is rated R for “crude and sexual content, pervasive language, some graphic nudity, drugs and drinking.” The nudity, by the way, is mostly male buttocks and a hint of pubic hair, with a brief glimpse of two women flashing at a party the only other nudity.
I’d write more, but there really isn’t much more to this film.
“21 & Over” LOOKS great, at least. The AVC/MPEG-4 transfer is sparkling, with terrific color saturation, black levels, and edge detail. Even in difficult lighting the detail is superb—as when you can see every ribbon and rivulet of vomit against a darkened bar background. Flesh tones seem accurate enough, and if there were any compression issues, I didn’t notice them. “21 & Over” is presented in 2.40:1 widescreen.
The featured audio is an English DTS-HD MA 5.1, but the music-driven movie at times feels like it’s pumping through seven channels, it’s so powerful and full-bodied. The bass has a nice heft to it, without vibrating the walls off, and subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.
Mercifully, there are only a handful of bonus features. In addition to a gag reel there are two featurettes, “Tower of Power” (about a frat party where people have to drink their way to eight different levels in the house) and “Levels of intoxication,” about Jeff Chang’s “journey.” Included in this combo pack is a DVD plus a Digital Copy.
I’m not the right audience for this film, but then again neither are some 16,000 readers at the Internet Movie Database who gave it a cumulative rating of 5.7 out of 10. I think a few 21 & Unders might have pushed it up a few points.