out of Five
Running time: 93
Watchable comedy enlivened by pacey direction and likeable comic performances, though there's a strong sense of having seen it all before and some of the jokes are a little misguided.
What's it all about?
Co-written and co-directed by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore (who wrote The Hangover), 21 and Over stars Skylar Astin as Casey, a straight-A college student who heads to Seattle to meet up with his best friend Miller (Miles Teller), so they can celebrate the 21st birthday of their buddy Jeff Chang (Justin Chon) in time-honoured (legally) drunken fashion. However, Jeff Chang's terrifying and ultra-strict father (Francois Chau) has arranged a medical school interview for his son at 8am the next morning, so the boys sneak Jeff out, promising him they'll only have one drink.
Needless to say, one drink quickly leads to another and soon Jeff Chang is near-comatose with booze and is unable to remember where he lives. Since neither Casey nor Miller can remember either, the pair are forced to improvise and end up having a variety of nocturnal adventures involving an encounter with a school mascot, a sorority of angry Latinas and the asshole boyfriend (Jonathan Keltz as Randy) of Nicole (Sarah Wright), a girl Casey chatted up in a bar.
Astin and Teller make a strong comic double act, with Teller's manic energy and loud-mouthed propensity for trouble occasionally recalling Vince Vaughn's iconic character in Swingers, while Astin gives good nice-guy straight man and has a nice line in self-deprecation. Similarly, Chon's maniacal drunk acting is consistently amusing and there's hilarious support from Daniel Booko as Julian, Randy's over-enthusiastic sidekick.
Lucas and Moore keep things moving at a decent pace, ensuring that the characters never stay in one place for too long and throwing in some nice ideas, like a frat party arranged like a video game in which you have to beat all the different levels.
The film's biggest problem is that it feels derivative throughout and there's nothing here that wasn't done better in either Superbad or The Hangover, for example (Lucas and Moore are clearly not above stealing from themselves). In addition, the directors are a little too in love with slo-mo vomit shots and some of the jokes are distinctly wide of the mark (drunk driving gags, Miller spanking two blindfolded Latina pledges).
On top of that, the 15 certificate means the film is never allowed to really cut loose and it often backs away from doing anything interesting or truly subversive (e.g. the boys being forced to kiss; both react in the standard cliché fashion). It also doesn't help that there's zero chemistry between Wright and Astin, so it's hard to invest in whether Casey gets the girl or not.
Pacey direction, a likeable cast and a commendably short running time ensure that 21 and Over is never less than watchable, but it's also a little too derivative for its own good.