It’s Jeff Chang’s (Justin Chon) 21st birthday, and his two best friends from high school, Casey (Skylar Astin) and Miller (Miles Teller), have showed up to his college dorm to help him celebrate the occasion in high spirits. Jeff Chang, which is said more than a few times and admittingly does roll of the tongue nicely, has a big medical school interview in the morning that his stern father is keen to have him do well at.
Wouldn’t you know, one drink at the bar turns into a couple, thirteen, fourteen drinks later, which turns into Jeff Chang drunk on the loose with Casey and Miller trying to get him back home before the morning. Stampeding buffalos, sorority girls with wooden paddles, a tower of power drink game extravaganza, and a jealous boyfriend by the name of Randy looking for payback hilariously get in the way.
Here’s an excerpt from my Project X review last year; a very similar night of drinking/coming of age movie.
-What first time director Nima Nourizadeh and scribes Matt Drake and Michael Bacall would like Project X to be is a perfect combination of a John Hughes “crazy day in troubled high school life” mixed with Todd Phillips Hangover antics. A fail on both accounts.
The difference between the wildly stupid Project X is that 21 and Over has the Hangover antics because they’re written by Hangover screenwriters Jon Lucas and Scott Moore. Lucas and Moore, who also serve as co-directors, don’t come within a football field’s length with a fist in the air of the John Hughes heart, but they did create some characters worth caring about for 90 plus minutes.
Lucas and Moore keep hitting us over the head with the dynamics of these three friends’ relationship, and, eventually, I was mildly won over (I’d love to see that quote to promote the film).
The situational hijinks get better the more escalated they get. There’s a really good ebb and flow of Casey and Miller doing dumb crap and getting in and out of ca-razy shenanigans. Even the gross out material had me giggling; a scene of the very, very inebriated Jeff Change chewing on a tampon because he’s got the munchies and thinks it’s a candy bar is both disgusting and hilarious.
Coming off the hit Pitch Perfect (which I did not like), Skylar Astin does well as the film’s straight man who’s wound just a bit too tight, and Sarah Wright (House Bunny) plays the girl that could be the cure for that. Playing drunk is a wobbly tight rope, but Justin Chon (The dumb Twilight movies) does it well.
21 and Over does not have a good start. Dialogue that consists mostly of white people making racially offensive statements comes off crass and offensive just for offensiveness’s sake. The importance of their friendship takes a long time to get going and not until then does the offensive material start paying off with people we care about.
It’s Miles Teller as the instigating rowdy Miller who needs to bring it down just a notch. Teller plays big characters, as I thought he successfully did as Willard in the Footloose remake, and it’s not that he doesn’t have his moments here, but he goes from 0 to 60 a bit too quickly with the bulk of the film’s offensive verbiage.
Directors/writers Lucas and Moore’s 21 and Over just passes, as they remember to keep tested friendships at the film’s forefront amidst some pretty decent “R” rated debauchery.
(This is a drinking movie so put a bucket next to you for this one.)
Take a Drink: anytime anyone say Jeff Chang.
Take a Drink: whenever you see nudity.
Take a Drink: whenever something racially offensive is said.
Take a Drink: whenever a movie reference is made (pay attention, cinephiles).
Down a Shot: whenever there’s a Chief siting.