Directed by: Jon Lucas and Scott Moore
Premise: A college student and his two best friends celebrate the student’s twenty-first birthday and shenanigans ensue.
What Works: The three leads of 21 & Over fit into standard buddy flick roles: the nerd, the party animal, and the responsible conservative. Of these three, the conservative played by Skylar Astin is the most interesting character (or the least reprehensible). As is typical for his character type, he is the voice of reason and responsibility and Astin is the most watchable presence on the screen. In the course of the movie he develops a relationship with a coed played by Sarah Wright and their scenes together give 21 & Over some its only enjoyable moments.
What Doesn’t: The comedy genre has taken a turn for the worst in the past few years, degrading from the slapstick of Dumb and Dumber and the satire of South Park into the meanness, misogyny, and stupidity of Andrew Dice Clay’s standup act. 21 & Over is consistent with that trend. This is unsurprising given the movie’s credits. 21 & Over was co-directed and written by Jon Moore and Scott Lucas who had previously written The Hangover (although some say only marginally), Ghosts of Girlfriends Past and The Change Up. With that filmography, the problems of 21 & Over are not surprising. The movie is profoundly and unabashedly racist and sexist and the only distinction about this film is how nonchalant it is about its ugliness. Movies and television shows that flirt with chauvinistic behavior have usually portrayed it in a reflexive way; the characters of Family Guy and Borat say and do awful things but that behavior is generally amusing because the audience is intended to laugh at it as opposed to with it. More recent comedies make no such distinction and in fact fall firmly on the side of their stupid characters. In 21 & Over the pretension is entirely missing. This is just idiocy offered up as heroic instead of ironic. But as awful as 21 & Over may be, what is worst about the movie is how lazy and unimaginative it is. Unlike Animal House or The Hangover, the cast is forgettable. If the filmmakers want the audience to cheer on characters this stupid then it is essential that they are at least engaging like the cast of the original American Pie. The characters of 21 & Over are not interesting at all; in fact they are the kind of obnoxious people that drive otherwise fun patrons out of a bar. 21 & Over begins by quickly introducing the lead characters and after the requisite moment of resistance they head off in search of debauchery. At that point the story skips ahead to closing time at a college bar where our characters are well inside the bag. There is no warm up, not even a montage, and it is a jarring transition that instantly makes the characters obnoxious. The rest of the movie consists of the two older friends trying to return the birthday boy to his apartment but constantly being thwarted by outside forces or their own drunken stupidity. It’s here that 21 & Over really fails; the film lacks laughs and surprises. None of the set pieces are original or creative. The trio sneaks into a sorority house, disrupts a pep rally, and plays a variety of drinking games but none of this has the kind of grotesque or outrageous showmanship that the story calls for and the picture is often dull. When a movie makes the viewer long for Beerfest or Van Wilder, something has gone terribly wrong.
Bottom Line: Watching 21 & Over is very much like being sober around people who are intoxicated. No one is as funny as they think they are and the aftermath leaves a sick feeling in the stomach.
Episode: #431 (March 17, 2013)