21 & Over

21 & Over


Reviewed by: David Graham

Another risible 'comedy' cashing in on The Hangover's success, its writers - Jon Lucas and Scott Moore - make an undistinguished directorial debut with a premise they probably came up with as a prequel to cash in on that film's breakout success. There are enough boozy shenanigans on show here to put you off drink for life, but apart from occasionally agreeable leads, there's a terminal lack of charm and humour to be found: Animal House this ain't. The gross-out gags, jarring violence and anti-PC action grow seriously old-hat quickly, while the unnecessary back-tracking narrative structure only serves as a reminder of how well The Hangover managed its retracing-your-steps approach.

Jeff Chang is finally going to be of legal US drinking age, so his best school-buddies Miller and Casey pay a surprise visit to help him celebrate. Their reunion is dampened by Chang's doctor father, offering a stern reminder that Jeff has an important interview for med school the next morning. This doesn't deter the party-loving Miller though, who manages to drag Chang to a bar for that infamous 'one drink', where dorky voice of reason Casey is swayed to stay out after meeting pretty student Nicole. As the evening grows ever more debauched, the group's plans to get Chang home are thwarted by his inebriation, leading them on a wild goose chase to try to find the dorm where they began lest they incur the wrath of the doctor and ruin their friend's chance of success.

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Teen flicks like this need appealing leads, and this is the only area where 21 & Over is fairly well served. Skylar Astin is the beating heart of the picture, nailing some surprisingly well-written dramatic interludes, while Miles Tellier's sub-Vince Vaughn schtick keeps energy levels running high even when the script is constantly stooping lower and lower. It's maddening, however, that the most charismatic of the trio - Twilight's Justin Chon - is reduced to Weekend At Bernie's-style body-dragging antics, spending most of the duration in a comatose state that wastes his notable potential. At 32, the baby-faced star should really know better.

As they trot from one laboured set-piece to another, the formulaic structure creaks under the pressure of delivering exponentially offensive doses of bad taste: one sequence has Chang snacking on tampons (unused, thankfully) while his two visiting friends conduct a lesbian tryst out of disgusting chauvinistic opportunism, recalling Compliance's disturbing warnings about the power of authority. As their trouble-making increasingly puts lives in danger, it becomes impossible to laugh along: somewhere, there are bound to be American youths dumb enough to emulate this nonsense.

There's an underlying thread of criticism that such a belated legal drinking age could be the cause of all this illicit mayhem, with the way these guys behave in public making American bars look even more irresponsible than the frat-houses and sororities they eventually have to negotiate. There's a little depth to be found in the script's recognition of the pressures of parental expectation and acknowledgement of the reality that campus life isn't the best experience of every student's life, but these fleeting moments of insight are too few and far between.

While it's professionally made - though slo-mo shots of projectile vomit lost their lustre a long time ago - and features a reasonably inoffensive romantic support in Sarah Wright, 21 & Over is too late to the Superbad party to make much of an impression. It's the antithesis of Spring Breakers, so anyone disappointed by Korine's lack of brainless shenanigans played for laughs may find solace here, but even critics of his latest may want to revisit it after suffering through this. If you can find humour in casual racism, drunk driving and people being gored by marauding buffalo, this may be the film for you. Otherwise, it'll make you want to sign up for AA meetings.

Reviewed on: 02 May 2013
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Turning 21 the day before a vital medical school interview, our hero pops out for just the one beer, with predictable consequences.
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Director: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore

Writer: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore

Starring: Miles Teller, Justin Chon, Sarah Wright, François Chau

Year: 2013

Runtime: 93 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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