Going into a movie like 21 And Over, remember that you get what you expect. Bawdy, booze-filled comedies like this one shouldn’t be compared to Oscar-winning pictures, so the standard has to be how well it pulls off being bawdy and booze-filled. 21 And Over delivers, and still manages to be a pretty good movie outside of all the cheap laughs.
21 And Over centers around two college-age best friends, Miller (Miles Teller) and Casey (Skylar Astin) who decide to surprise their high school buddy Jeff Chang (Justin Chon) on his 21st birthday. Chang’s stereotypically disapproving Asian father forbids his son from going out drinking, since he has an important interview at a medical practice in the morning. Thus Miller, playing the typical frat-boy character who’s more focused on beers and babes than common sense, makes it his mission to get the hesitant Chang and the rational-minded, overly-mature Casey to go out and party. And of course, since a movie about a quiet night in would be boring, he succeeds.
After a bar-hopping sequence filled with lethal amounts of alcohol consumption and a meeting between the inevitable “golden girl” Nicole (Sarah Wright) and Casey, the two best friends realize that Chang is so drunk he’s barely conscious. This is where the movie differs from most in its genre – instead of leaving their friend to handle his own mess to go off on adventures, Miller and Casey spend the rest of the movie attempting to get their friend home.
Admittedly, the basic storyline of the movie is predictable. The three best friends all go through the basic hero’s journey in one night, discovering everything they want in life. One hero even gets the girl (who, is a terrible cast choice, as she’s quite annoying throughout the whole film). There are a couple genuine plot twists along the way, however, and the story is enjoyable.
Ninety-nine percent of the movie’s charm comes from the three main actors. Miles Teller, notable for his minor but hilarious role in last year’s Project X, is the funniest part of the movie, and somehow plays up the lazy frat-boy into a likable character. Astin and Chon, too, take some very clichéd roles and transform them into funny, endearing people.
Their drunken adventure becomes not so much a cheesy Girls Gone Wild meets Animal House, but more of a comedy of errors. There’s no gratuitous objectification of women, no glorification of underage or completely irresponsible drinking, and when the guys in the movie want to show some bro love, there’s no one yelling out that it’s gay.
Without those cliches, 21 And Over still manages some serious comedy, and even made my mother laugh out loud. If that’s not a testament to a bawdy, booze-filled comedy well done, then I don’t know what is. I’d give this movie three out of four stars.
~Fiona McCarthy, staff reporter