If you thought Seth McFarlane’s job of hosting the Oscars was profane and lacking in laughs, wait until you see 21 and Over, a hopelessly juvenile attempt to make The Hangover for a new generation of audiences. What’s worse is that it is written and directed by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, the same people who wrote the screenplay for The Hangover.
While they may not see it as the same movie, 21 and Over still follows a very familiar pattern as three college students try to find their way back home after a night of drunken debauchery. But unlike The Hangover, this movie is missing a very important element in a comedy: laughs.
We begin with Miller (Miles Teller) and Casey (Skylar Astin), who drive into town to greet their best friend from high school, Jeff Chang (Justin Chon), who has just turned 21 years old. Their mission is to take Jeff out for a night on the town to all those college bars that he was previously denied entrance to and give him the drunken time of his life. The problem is, is that Jeff has a very important medical school interview in the morning, and his father (the deadly serious François Chau) is putting serious pressure on him to live up to the family name. So Miles and Casey instead promise to take him out for only one drink, but we all know that’s not going to be the case.
Now unlike The Hangover, the boys (except for Jeff) do not forget about the night they had been through. But what they do forget is the address of Jeff’s apartment where they picked him up from, so the movie then becomes an adventure as Miles and Casey try to get Jeff’s address any which way they can so that they can get him home and rested in time for his interview. Of course, this involves our main characters getting into over-the-top situations that they will be lucky to get out of alive.
Some of the hijinks that Miller, Casey and Jeff end up getting into include breaking into a sorority, mistaking a tampon for a candy bar, throwing up while riding a mechanical bull, getting two girls to make out with each other, and Miller and Casey being forced to kiss one another. That last joke has been played out before in American Pie 2 and every other Adam Sandler movie ever made. There’s nothing new to be found in 21 and Over, and the humor feels sad and desperate as a result.
Furthermore, the character of Miller seems particularly moronic as he keeps making statements about people that are inappropriate and borderline racist. It’s almost like he’s the Zach Galifianakis character from The Hangover (Alan), but while you could understand that Alan didn’t know the meaning of everything he said, you get the sense that Miller should know a lot better.
By the movie’s end it has shifted its tone from raunchy humor and tries to get at some deeply felt meaning about the importance of having fun and of finding your own path in life. Most films like 21 and Over end in this way, but any genuine emotion that the filmmakers want to get through to us ultimately feels fake and the meaning is lost on the audience, who have seen this kind of movie one too many times.
You do have to give Teller, Astin and Chon some credit though as they really are game to make fools out of themselves for the sake of comedy. They are all talented actors and put a lot of energy into their roles, and each ends up doing a number of nude scenes as well. But in the end it’s all for naught as the script gives them nothing but recycled gags from a number of other movies, and that makes 21 and Over all the more depressing to sit through.
Lucas and Moore never really let their script get beyond the spec stage, and they are unable to make it seem distinct from so the countless other raunchy comedies out there. I’ll be the first to say that there is nothing wrong with raunchy comedy, but you need memorable characters and a good story to make it work. 21 and Over doesn’t have either, and you wish that these two filmmakers had put more thought into what they were doing before starting making this movie.
The ironic thing about 21 and Over is that audiences who are 21 years of age and over will likely hate it. Those under 21 might get a kick out of it, but that’s only because they may not have been exposed to The Hangover or Superbad or any of the other great college comedies like Animal House.
In the end this is a comedy that is devoid of any real laughs, and it is a waste of your time. There’s nothing more depressing than a comedy that doesn’t make you laugh, and this is one of them.