21 & OVER
Directors: Jon Lucas and Scott Moore
Cast: Miles Teller, Skylar Astin, Justin Chon, Sarah Wright, Jonathan Keltz, François Chau
MPAA Rating: (for crude and sexual content, pervasive langauge, some graphic nudity, drugs and drinking)
Running Time: 1:33
Release Date: 3/1/13
Review by Mark Dujsik | February 28, 2013
When we first meet the protagonists of 21 & Over, they are naked, walking in shame across a college campus with bruises on their behinds and socks on their fronts (Use your imagination). It's supposed to be a low point for them after a long night of running around a college campus trying to get their blackout-drunk friend home before a big job interview in the morning, but after spending a little bit of time with these two, it seems more like appropriate retribution.
If there's one thing these early-20-somethings don't deserve, it's sympathy, but Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, who co-wrote and co-directed the movie, pull out three different manipulative tricks in order to try to goad our sympathy for their central characters. Miller (Miles Teller) is really, apparently, a very smart guy despite all evidence to contrary (There's plenty of inconsistency among these simplistic characters), including his belief that there are bears native to Africa and that identifying all the people he meets by their ethnic background is somehow endearing. At one point, he introduces himself to a complete stranger by sighing, "Thank God you're white." Yes, that line is taken out of context, but honestly, the context doesn't help his case.
The second is a strait-laced student from an illustrious university whose desire to work on Wall Street once he graduates influences every decision he makes. It would be easy enough to dismiss Casey (Skylar Astin) based on the fact that he still considers the first guy his friend (Again, the screenplay never gives us a good reason to believe that the two haven't drifted apart after high school, and their friendship comes across as a machination of necessity), which points to a lack of intelligence on his part.
He's meant to be unsympathetic because Miller considers him a "tool" for the way he dresses and actually cares about his future. For some reason, Lucas and Moore believe that his redemption lies in whether or not he decides to make a move on a fairly annoying young woman named Nicole (Sarah Wright), whom Casey meets at a bar and who keeps showing up throughout the night to tempt him with her lack of helpfulness, the fact that she has a jerk for a boyfriend, and her announcement that she'll be spending spring break traveling across South America.
The final friend is named Jeff Chang (Justin Chon), whom both Miller and Casey constantly refer to as "Jeffchang," as if his last name and, hence, his race define him entirely. Poor Jeff spends most of the movie drunk and at the mercy of his friends, who turn out to be quite merciless.
They throw him off a balcony (A well-timed bounce, admittedly, provides one of the movie's very limited chuckles). They drop him a couple of stories onto a van. They tie him to a toilet in a women's bathroom (He thinks a tampon is a candy bar, and the long take of him chewing it means Lucas and Moore apparently think cotton is gross—but only if it's used to make feminine hygiene products). They leave him in the care of a couple of stoners who proceed to strip him and glue a stuffed animal to his genitals, and yes, his friends later tear off the toy. It's only when they learn that he might have tried to commit suicide (The details are vague, but it's a testament to how cruel the movie is that it would use that development for cheap effect) that they treat him as more than a prop.
The three friends have gathered together at Jeff's college to celebrate his 21st birthday, though at first, Jeff is hesitant to go out for the night because his hard-nosed father (François Chau) has set up an important job interview for him in the morning. Miller coerces him with the threat of keeping him awake all night with an air horn, and soon enough, Jeff is taking shot after shot and ends up unconscious. Neither Miller nor Casey know where their friend's house is located, and they spend the rest of the night trying to hunt down his address.The jokes of 21 & Over are either mean-spirited (Anything Miller says or does, including assaulting two women at a Latina sorority house—misogynistic and racist at the same time—because they "asked for it") or entirely random (A bison goes on a rampage after Miller pulls a gun on someone—seriously—and shoots it in the air); all of them are pretty predictable. All of this is really just to say that these guys deserve more than what they've gotten when we first meet them.
Copyright © 2013 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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