When your movie’s claim to fame is the writing staff, then typically there are very little other strengths for your film to go on. As a matter of fact, the word ‘lack’ is a pretty apt word to describe Jon Lucas and Scott Moore’s 21 & Over for a multitude of reasons.
Our story centers on almost racist stereotype Jeff Chang, played by Justin Chon. His friends Miller, played by Miles Teller, and Casey, played by Skylar Astin, are in town to surprise him for his 21st birthday. However, his over-protective, overly domineering father has set up an interview with a top medical company, and he won’t have the time to go out. However, his friends refuse to let him avoid this rite of passage; so out he goes for one wild night of bar hopping and partying. However, it isn’t long before things get out of hand, and it becomes a race against time to get Chang home, sober and ready for the interview.
The first lack comes in with the inconsistencies of the plot. The chronology of events is very improbable to the point where suspension of disbelief is no longer possible. Through word of mouth from other students, we find that Chang can’t possibly have the grades needed to get any kind of interview with any med school anywhere. The entire subplot with the Latina sorority is unrealistically ludicrous at best. And the twist for Jeff Chang’s collegiate performance is remarkably thinly veiled to the point where it is no longer a significant twist. The worst part of the plot is the shoehorned romantic subplot, which seems to be inserted just to have an excuse to have a pretty lady on the screen. She appears around the main characters with the frequency of a slasher-film villain, and has about the same amount of character development.
The characters in this movie are both undeveloped and have a complete lack of originality. It almost seems as though this movie was originally written as a prequel to The Hangover franchise and they decided to change the names of the characters because the studios felt as though the movie wasn’t strong enough as such. As a result, we have a hodge-podge of poorly written characters with a minimal amount of backstory and changes that come about that are regrettably formulaic and predictable.
The only saving grace is that there is a good amount of charm in the setting for the film. The non-descript, general college campus gives it a feeling that it could be almost any campus, ‘even yours’. It is a very quaint town, and even though it is apparently a large campus, there is a still a universal familiarity among a large percentage of the student body.
The most glaring issue with this movie is its complete lack of consistent pacing. One minute we see Miller and Casey running away from the Latina sorority, and the next the two of them are talking about how they don’t feel as though they are nearly as close as they were in high school and that their friendship is falling apart. They are engaging in the kind of hijinks that made The Hangover possible and in the next instant they are having a somber ‘bro moment’ with little to no emotional transition or satisfactory catharsis for either. Because of the poor pacing, the audience isn’t allowed to let any moment sink in as we are rushed almost as much as the characters themselves.
This movie isn’t specifically bad; there have been endless multitudes of truly bad movies that the average moviegoer isn’t even ready to see. However, 21 and Over is a far cry from a good movie, either. There aren’t any strong characters, there isn’t any kind of originality to them or the story, and the ending can be seen from a mile away. There isn’t anything here that hasn’t been seen elsewhere in stronger, funnier movies with better actors and less predictable twists. Although this isn’t a movie that is supposed to be avoided per se, it definitely doesn’t warrant a theatrical viewing. A rental at best.
Two stars out of four.