Given writer/ directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore both wrote “The Hangover”, it’s easy to see “21 & Over” as the warmed-up leftovers from that idea given a teen-friendly topping and served up as a new “American Pie”.
When Casey (Skylar Astin) and Miller (Miles Teller) reunite to celebrate their old school friend Jeff Chang (Justin Chon)’s 21st birthday, they find him busy preparing for an important medical school interview. Convincing him that he can take time out to celebrate, Jeff agrees to one drink. However with his newfound ability to legally drink as much as he can, it’s not long before Jeff drinks himself into a stupor, leaving Casey and Miller to get him home. The only problem is: they can’t remember where he lives.
The film follows the usual trope of increasingly frantic and bizarre shenanigans with the grab-bag of motley characters usually found in these campus comedies but there’s a boorish streak running through the film that makes much of the comedy uneasily nasty. There are also the requisite cookie cutter character arcs for our three main characters as one learns to relax and have a little fun, one learns to stop having so much fun and knuckle down and one learns to stand up to their father and follow their own dreams.
The cast are better than the material they’ve been given to work with and even though this is a poor film and his character is decidedly unlikeable, Miles Teller manages to do enough to make me really intrigued to see what he can do as Mr Fantastic in Josh Trank’s upcoming “Fantastic Four” reboot. Skylar Astin is his usual charming self but has so little to do that his budding romance with Sarah Wright’s Nicole feels tacked on and superfluous to the whacky gross-out antics of Jeff Chang’s journey of spirit-fuelled self-discovery. At least François Chau (TV’s “Lost”) gets a few great moments as Jeff Chang’s fierce father.
Overly profane with a misogynistic fratboy mentality and not enough heart, “21 & Over” is a bit of a crass misfire that tries to check all the boxes of the teen comedy genre before rushing to its unearned and abrupt character epiphanies.