"21 & Over" Fondly Remembers A Time That Didn't Happen Review

Fade in:


It is always nice when a film is honest about its nature. From the earliest scene, 21 & Over rarely minces words. Evidenced by the title, the picture floats upon abundant spirits and the resulting debaucherous hijinks indicative of young adulthood. 21 & Over comes from writers-directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, who scripted The Hangover (2009), making the kinship more direct, as if it were obtuse before. However, Lucas and Moore’s latest flick features a clever turn of an old plot device, along with wittier dialogue that transforms college into a more desirable experience than the audience remembers.

Miller (Miles Teller) and Casey (Skylar Astin) are old high school pals that collegiate circumstances have rendered friends-in-name-only. They spring a visit on their third amigo Jeff Chang (Justin Chon), to obviously, as spoiled by the title, celebrate his 21st birthday. All the bromantic intentions of The Hangover are present. It even includes the set-up for a “The Next Day” amnesic, Nancy Drew adventure. However, instead of a drunken caper, 21 & Over reserves a MacGuffin. Audiences stay with the three drinkers from titty shot to body shot, as Jeff Chang becomes too wasted to remember where he lives. Miller and Casey are left dragging this flat third wheel across campus, searching for someone who knows Chang’s address.

Wait…Don’t Miller and Casey remember the address they told the cabby, when they first arrived at Chang’s apartment?


We need an excuse to release a charging bison into a crowded bonfire party.

Regardless, the reversal of searching for something, to replacing something, as a mechanic for animating plot is admirable.

What follows is a bromantic fantasy of college.

Teller delivers a wonderful comedic performance, perfectly timed and tonally consistent. Miller is the roommate viewers wished for. Though completely aware of his own crass absurdities, he exceptionally veils it behind pretended, guiltless ignorance. He laughs through life, and wants you to laugh along, but sometimes you’re a little shocked because you’re too square.

Astin’s portrayal of Casey is equally keen. The viewer sees himself as Casey, or more appropriately wishes he were Casey, the “nerd” who’s far too suave. To be labeled “nerd” because of a tie and Oxford, while maintaining all that boyish charm would have been a godsend. But, as Miller already revealed, you’re too square.

Chon somewhat follows in the footsteps of Ken Jeong’s Mr. Chow. Any viewer wishes he could have said, “Fuck it!” like Tom Cruise in Risky Business (1983), and dropped all the stresses and pressures of academia, for just one night of wildly running with Chang around campus. Most viewers ended up flopped on the ground like a stoner, or in the stupor of a drunken rage. They could only hope to blitz over cards, butt naked save for a stuffy giving a blowie. Again, as Miller already pointed out, you’re too square. You’re just a watcher.

Unfortunately, 21 & Over does occasionally stray from this entertaining formula. Though audiences would rather see the brotherly bantering of Miller and Casey, as they ascend the Tower of Power, instead the bromance, at times, becomes a little too heavy and a touch sappy. The best of the Guys Hang-out Genre are consistent. Jon Favreau’s Swingers (1996) is always humourous and even pokes fun at pathetic break-ups. Diner (1982), from Barry Levinson, is a shade darker, as it follows the dim and unsatisfying epiphanies of guys transitioning from young adults to grown men. 21 & Over is crude, sharp, and comical until Miller and Casey gripe over their high school differences, or Casey sincerely compliments Miller’s unrealized brilliance, or the sad reality of Chang’s studies comes to light.

Overall, a screening of 21 & Over will make viewers laugh with the quasi-nostalgic, semi-dream of what they wish college was. Meanwhile, however, they will groan through tonal breaks into the genuine and wait for Miller to crack another wise one. 

"21 & Over" opens March 1, 2013 and is rated R. Comedy. Directed by Jon Lucas, Scott Moore. Written by Jon Lucas, Scott Moore. Starring Justin Chon, Miles Teller, Skylar Astin.

Steven M. Paquin • Staff Writer

Once, I wanted to be a secret agent, but then I decided to do the pictures. 

For more of my thoughts on film, visit Silverscreen Chimera.  



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