Written, directed by, and serving as the directorial debut of Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, 21 & Over is an American comedy that follows a promising student Jeff Chang (Justin Chon) who, the night before his big medical school interview, celebrates his 21st birthday with his two best friends, Miller (Miles Teller) and Casey (Skylar Astin). What was supposed to be just one beer, however, soon becomes a night of humiliation, over indulgence and utter debauchery. But what more would you expect?
With a film like this it’s very easy to stick to a checklist – alcohol, boobs, sick, a lot of unnecessary drama, a drinking game with some interesting gambles, a possible romance, a jock that just wants to fight at every given moment, a crazy/hippy man who knows more about what’s going on than anybody else, more boobs, lots of Greek sororities and their rituals, an embarrassingly sticky situation that will be hard to explain the next morning, a typically racist gang formed of any other culture, a morning of regret and/or life-changing conclusions, and more boobs – 21 & Over is check all around.
From the writers of The Hangover, it’s no surprise that the story is pretty similar. But this slight intelligence is what also stops this American high school drama from becoming just another Project X. You may have easily predicted the plot from the word go, but it’s still a film that may surprise you, as it isn’t completely awful. But whilst the dialogue is witty, having an obviously talented writing team behind it, when it comes to a film about alcohol and mayhem, at least, 21 & Over is inconsistently funny. It’s levels of immaturity and gross-out humour certainly aren’t for everybody, failing to stand out from the many classic American comedies it is so obviously influenced by.
But it’s not all alcohol and boobs, 21 & Over also has it’s darker moments weaved in and it focuses pretty closely on the friendship of its three main characters, so it doesn’t fall to pieces quite as you would imagine, with these serious side topics giving it more purpose than your average coming-of-drinking-age-comedy. The three main characters are almost likeable, too, for their stereotypical “let’s go about everything the wrong way” roles, and the possible romance works because the female distraction, played by Sarah Wright, is free of all American drama-queen clichés. Let’s just say it has its qualities, even if they are very few.
21 & Over is simple, sparkless, and lacks any big laughs, but it’s hard not to enjoy, if only very slightly; I’ve definitely seen a lot worse from a number of films that I had high hopes for this year, so it may even surprise you too.