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"21 AND OVER"
(2013) (Miles Teller, Skylar Austin) (R)

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QUICK TAKE:
Comedy: Three college friends get into a night of debauchery when one gets ridiculously drunk, and the other two have to carry him home in time for a medical-school interview.
PLOT:
The night before a big medical-school interview that his domineering father (FRANCOIS CHAU) pulled strings to set up, Jeff Chang (JUSTIN CHON) decides to go out drinking and partying to celebrate his 21st birthday. His companions are a couple of old high school buddies. Casey (SKYLAR AUSTIN) is the more responsible of the two, a straight-laced young man who is going to spend Spring Break interning at a New York investment firm. Miller (MILES TELLER), on the other hand, is a mischievous, profane, and horny undergraduate who parties hard and worries about the consequences later.

After hitting a string of bars, Jeff Chang (he is called both names throughout the movie) is so drunk that he is nearly unconscious. Casey and Miller feel responsible for getting him in that state and only want to get him back home for a few hours of sleep so that he will be fresh for his all-important interview the next morning. One problem. They don't know where his home is in a campus town of 40,000. His ID has his old address and no one seems to know him.

A night of wandering debauchery ensues involving a lot more drinking, along with run-ins with an angry Latina sorority, a wild buffalo that gets out of control, and a violent male cheerleader named Randy (JONATHAN KELTZ) who wants to kill them. Casey, meanwhile, has fallen for Randy's girlfriend, Nicole (SARAH WRIGHT), who is leaving the next day for an adventure trip in South America.

OUR TAKE: 4.5 out of 10
Our reviewing policy for films that are shown late the night before theatrical release to critics is that we'll only provide a few paragraphs about the film's artistic merits.

I don't go to raunchy sex comedies to pass moral judgments on any of the characters. After all, I cut my teeth in the 1980s on such throwaway smut-fests as "Fraternity Vacation," "Hardbodies," and the "Porky's" saga. I was between the ages of 13 and 16 when those movies came out. To a teenager smacked hard by puberty, these were veritable event pictures. I also acknowledge that these are the kinds of flicks that one might love at a certain young age and outgrow fairly quickly once they have kids of their own. I judge flicks like "21 and Over" on two things: 1) Was it funny? and 2) Did I like the characters?

Bad news and good news. "21 and Over" is really not that funny. Check that. It's not as funny as it thinks it is. Part of the problem is it is relentlessly derivative. As you're watching it, you can't help but see all the films that inspired it - everything from "The Hangover," "Project X," and "Dude, Where's My Car?" to such '80s classics as "Revenge of the Nerds" and "Weekend at Bernie's."

The film's saving grace, though, is its very likable cast. Skylar Austin, Justin Chon, and Miles Teller make for an appealing trio of former high-school buddies who reassemble for the Chon character's 21st birthday. One problem. He has an all-important medical-school interview the next morning, so he can't party too hearty. Yeah, that doesn't last. By 11 p.m., he's hammered and Austin and Teller have no idea where their friend lives in a campus town of 40,000. Hijinks ensue.

Curiously, the film takes an oddly serious turn for a few minutes late in its running time and makes the audience question whether one of the three has previously attempted suicide and may still be suicidal. So while the characters lament their bad behavior, anyone in the audience who has been enjoying their campus exploits in the first two-thirds of the film suddenly feels bad, too.

That's definitely not good in this kind of flick. There was no need to give these characters dramatic weight. For a bit, you're left to wonder if this is really the note the filmmakers will want to go out on. But then a few scenes later, the three guys are back stealing a van, driving recklessly through campus, dodging police, and getting into fights with hyper-violent male cheerleaders. "21 and Over" works in fits and starts, but not as a complete movie. Consequently, I rate it no higher than a 4.5 out of 10. (T. Durgin).




Reviewed February 28, 2013 / Posted March 1, 2013


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