Andy Bockelman: ’21 and Over’ has imbibing idiots galore
March 7, 2013
"21 and Over," Rated R
Rating: 2 out of 4 stars
Run time: 93 minutes
Starring: Justin Chon, Skylar Astin, Miles Teller and Sarah Wright
Steamboat Springs — Supposedly the older you get, the wiser and more responsible you become. Yet there is a loophole when you hit a certain age that you're allowed to briefly throw all caution to the wind before becoming a full-fledged adult. That unspoken rule has a lot of limitations for some, but for the kids of "21 and Over", anything is possible. Anything.
Ever since heading off to college, best friends Casey and Miller (Skylar Astin, Miles Teller) have drifted apart, but they plan to reconnect with a surprise visit to their high school pal Jeff Chang (Justin Chon) at Northern Pacific University to celebrate his 21st birthday. Sadly, their plans have a damper put on them when they learn Jeff has a medical school interview scheduled the next morning, leaving a crazy night on the town out of the question, though they are able to convince him to hit the bar for a quick drink.
Once the booze starts flowing none of them want the fun to end, but when Casey and Miller are prepared to take their barely conscious companion home, the hard truth hits them: they have no idea where Jeff's apartment is and no way to find his address. As the search begins, the two of them find themselves in the middle of a chaotic campus dragging their drunken buddy everywhere they go, and the clock is ticking down to the most important moment of Jeff's life.
Though his baby face masks the fact he's in his 30s, Chon has no problem getting into the college mindset, and while Jeff Chang spends most of the movie hardly able to stand, he spends his more coherent moments pulling stunts most of us wouldn't dare.
It's all Astin and Teller can do to keep up as straight-laced Casey and 24/7 party animal Miller, an odd couple if there ever was one. Even so, they get into just as much trouble, if not more, sneaking into a sorority house, crashing an all-night pep rally at the fictitious NPU and ultimately crossing off every entry on the bucket list of the typical college student. But, as pleasant as some exploits may be, like Casey finding his ideal girl (Sarah Wright), no amount of jubilation will make up for the consequences they'll have to face if they don't get Jeff back to his demanding father (François Chau) by 7 a.m.
Rational thought has never had much of a place in the "one crazy night" oeuvre, and there's no more here at the college level than the high school evenings of debauchery in "Superbad" and "Project X." Throwing a guy from a balcony onto a pool tarp always seems like a good idea when a mob of angry co-eds are right behind you, but given the intelligence of this trio — made entirely of young actors who have served largely in the beta male role for their careers — it makes Harold and Kumar look all the brighter.
With "The Hangover" writing partners Jon Lucas and Scott Moore getting their first opportunity to direct, you wouldn't expect them to venture far from the material that's proved their biggest success, but where the antics of The Wolf Pack tickled our funny bones, their new film doesn't illicit quite as many laughs. It's not without some good chuckles, but its depiction of college students' schedules as being one party after another only to wake up fresh as a daisy is beyond the pale when it comes to bad examples.
Movies shouldn't be blamed for dictating the behavior of a generation that considers a shindig complete with beer pong, quarters, keg stands and many more drinking games to be just the opening of an alcohol-fueled night, but a protagonist who vocally states that he envies the homeless for their attachment-free lifestyle is a sobering snapshot of the 18-to-25 crowd that never knows when to quit.
At least in "The Hangover" they showed the aftermath of such insanity.
One saving grace is the minimal amount of realism that Lucas and Moore add in as Casey and Miller learn Jeff Chang — who, like the equally hard-luck Charlie Brown, is always referred to by his full name — isn't quite the flawless scholar they assumed an Asian boy would be and has more problems in college than they thought. Somehow, defying this stereotype feels kind of hollow, doesn't it?
The hedonistic tendencies of "21 and Over" aren't without their humor, but knowing thousands of students will be inspired to pick up a case of beer after leaving the theater rather than cleaning up their act leaves you feeling as skeevy as if you were doing the Walk of Shame. Maybe not as bad as the walk through the quad in the buff wearing only a tube sock with Greek letters scalded into your rear end, but skeevy nonetheless.
Andy Bockelman is a Craig resident, freelance writer and Denver Film Critics Society accredited film fanatic who occasionally reviews movies playing in Steamboat Springs.
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