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21 and Overdone

William Neal | Thursday, March 7, 2013

 

By WILLIAM NEAL

Scene Writer

Coming from the directorial debut of duo Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, the writers behind “The Hangover” (Parts I and II) and “The Change-Up,” “21 and Over” delivers exactly what many of you were expecting: a college version of “The Hangover.” But this is not necessarily a negative. What I found from this film was a story that, while certainly familiar and overdone, delivers solid moments of character development among a frequent string of laughs. While this “wild night” movie doesn’t come close to topping some others in the category, like “Superbad,” it certainly succeeds over the likes of “Project X.”

When I say this film is the college version of “The Hangover,” that is by no means an exaggeration. Both films begin with the main characters in a moment of crisis followed by a flashback story to explain how they ended up in this predicament (whether it’s our leading characters stuck in the Nevada desert or strolling a college campus wearing nothing but socks). This leads to the main story involving a guy with a major life decision in his near future (whether it’s Doug getting married or Jeff Chang being interviewed for medical school). Despite their responsibilities, both characters will be convinced to join their friends for one wild evening (whether it’s for a bachelor party or a 21st birthday). Soon, the night takes a drastic turn and leads to a series of progressively shocking and unrealistic events that put our main characters in danger. Yeah, it’s the same formula, but you can’t accuse writers of ripping off their own work, especially when it’s not a bad movie. 

Look at Judd Apatow. Have you noticed all his films revolve around adults that need to grow up and accept their responsibilities (“Knocked Up,” “40-Year-Old Virgin,” “Funny People,” “This is 40”)? When a writer finds a concept that works, they’re going to find ways to continue to roll with it, and that’s not always a bad thing. “21 and Over” may be familiar and barely qualify as a realistic look into college life, but audiences will attend this film for the laughs and not for a quality story. While the movie consistently delivers shock value for the sake of shock value and features every expected cliché from ludicrous inebriation levels, foul language, car chases, and gunplay, this film will make you laugh. 

The main cast of characters, including Casey (Skylar Astin from “Pitch Perfect”), Miller (Miles Teller from “Footloose”) and Jeff Chang (Justin Chon from “Twilight”) are as obnoxious and ridiculous as you’d expect from a modern-day college comedy, but they deliver successfully comedic performances and play well off one another (their fast-paced banter results in some of the funniest moments of the film). While you get what you expect from a binge comedy like “21 and Over,” what’s surprising are the moments when the characters reflect on their lives and how they’ve changed since the good ol’ days of high school, leading to some moments of vulnerability and growth. The issues with this film don’t come from the wild, unrealistic antics (releasing a wild buffalo, repeatedly throwing Jeff Chang off buildings), but from the forced romance arc. It becomes painfully obvious that Lucas and Moore don’t know how to write dialogue for women, not to mention that the romantic interest Nicole (Sarah Wright) delivers a stale and annoying performance that results in a pairing we just don’t care about. 

“21 and Over” isn’t a fantastic film and won’t be for everyone, but it delivers in what it’s supposed to do: make you laugh. This is a film that doesn’t take itself seriously. If you’re a fan of the “wild night” genre,  I’m sure you’ll find the ride enjoyable. 

Contact William Neal at wneal @nd.edu