21 is possibly the biggest birthday a person could celebrate. You’re old enough that you can legally get into any bar or club (while flaunting your legitimate i.d. to any bouncer guarding the door), but young enough to make mistakes, party too hard, and call it a learning experience. By 21, many people are in a state of transition. How do you handle the new responsibilities you’re about to be faced with? What do you want to do now that you’re “grown up?” Are your oldest friends still your best friends? Did you really have anything in common with them to begin with? 21 and Over explores these themes, all of which arise during one character’s raucous 21st birthday celebration.
The film begins with Casey (Skylar Astin of Pitch Perfect, Hamlet II and Wreck-It Ralph) and Miller (Miles Teller of The Spectacular Now, Project X and Rabbit Hole) walking across campus wearing nothing but a strategically placed sock. They look at each other and state, “this never happened,” automatically letting the audience know they’re in for a wild ride, reminiscent of The Hangover. We flashback to a day earlier, when old friends Casey, the straight-laced responsible guy, and Miller, the party animal, reunite to surprise Jeff Chang (Justin Chon of the Twilight Saga) and take him out partying for his 21st birthday. There’s only one problem: Jeff has a crucial med school interview at 8am the next morning, which his overbearing father (Francois Chau) arranged for him. Since his friends traveled so far to surprise him, he agrees to one drink. Soon enough, one drink turns into one too many and debauchery ensues.
First, they’re singing at a bar, meeting women (in particular Nicole, played by Sarah Wright of Parks and Recreation and The House Bunny) and riding mechanical bulls. Then things start to go downhill. While barhopping, Jeff Chang quickly gets too drunk to function, and Casey and Miller decide they need to get him home. The only catch? They don’t know where his home is. With time before Jeff’s interview running low, they embark on a quest to find his home and get him to bed. Along the way, they anger an entire Latina sorority, come across an angry buffalo, encounter a homeless man wearing a tribal headdress, and make a rival out of a cheerleader Randy (Jonathan Keltz). Can their already physically distant friendship handle the strain of this wild night? And more importantly, will Jeff Chang make it home and sober up in time for his interview?
Though filled with some laughs and drunken idiocies, this film also has a heart keeping the craziness beating. The raunchy drunkenness is balanced with the crude reality that sometimes, both people and friendships change. While the characters are searching for Jeff’s home, they’re also learning about one another and themselves. They’re trying to figure out what it is they want to do in the future, and if that leaves room for their old friends. These shifts are occasionally a little jarring, but it adds a level of depth what basically is a buddy/ drinking comedy.
Writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore (The Hangover, The Change Up, and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past) make their directorial debut with this film. It is very similar in vein to their Hangover franchise, but will be popular with college students nonetheless. In my opinion, what heightens this film is the cast. They all have a strong connection to one another, and their friendship is believable. Miles Teller as Miller plays the foil to the other characters. He’s the wild instigator and the one causing most of the trouble, but Teller translates likeability to his character that you understand how he originally became friends with the other two. Skylar Astin gives a more subtle performance as Casey, the more buttoned-up character, but adds nuanced layers that you can’t help but love watching him onscreen. Justin Chon, though passed-out for a lot of the film, suits the role perfectly, balancing the med-student his father wants him to be with the party animal he truly is.
Overall, while not entirely groundbreaking (especially for Lucas and Moore), the film is still entertaining enough. It’s a fun, buddy, drinking comedy that provides a few easy laughs. It’s part Hangover, part Superbad, part Harold and Kumar, all entertainment. It’s the kind of movie 18-25 year olds will drink up.
-Levels of Intoxication
-Towers of Power