Stars: Miles Teller, Justin Chon, Sarah Wright, Skylar Astin, Jonathan Keltz, François Chau, Russell Hodgkinson, Daniel Booko, Dustin Ybarra, Samantha Futerman | Written and Directed by Jon Lucas, Scott Moore
I write this review in a haze of disorientation, not, I hasten to add, due to a lingering intoxication effect from seeing this film, but due to riding high on adrenaline after a close brush with disaster. You’ll forgive me, I hope, if the next seven hundred words or so appear incomprehensible, meandering or just plain silly. This introduction is by no means excluded. The disaster in question? I had found myself without proper boarding passes for a flight I’m due to be on in the next sixteen hours and thought myself without access to a printer. Thank all that claims to be holy for the mercifully continued existence of the humble internet café. Specifically, thank you to Yusuf Internet Café, 27 London Road, SE23. Make your pilgrimage to this extraordinary place and shake the hand of its most wonderful proprietor.
So, 21 and Over. It’s a film about three friends who have been separated since going to university. They reunite to celebrate the twenty-first birthday of a member of the group; unfortunately Jeff Chang (as his companions Casey and Miller exclusively and amusingly refer to him as) has a crucial job interview in the morning. The trio choose to defy Jeff Chang’s authoritarian father (François Chau, amusingly playing Dr Chang, just as he did in Lost) and go a-boozin’ anyway. Jeff Chang gets so very drunk, he passes out and cannot direct his friends back to his home. Can Casey and Miller use their wits, guile and cunning to get him home and dry in time?
21 and Over is very daft, inconsistent and occasionally annoying. It is also, however, often funny, unpretentious and manages to evoke something approaching an empathic reaction in the audience for the characters. The things that I specifically liked about the film were its fairly believable characterisation of friends becoming estranged – it pretty much manages to capture the vague sense of ennui that can set in once you realise you are no longer as close to a person as you once were and never thought you would be. It also just about manages to depict that transitional time in people’s lives where adolescence ends and adulthood begins and the confusion that comes with it.
It does all this through the medium of knob jokes, unrelenting vulgarity and a recklessly irresponsible attitude to moral behaviour.
The things that I specifically did not like about the film included the annoyingness of the ‘annoying’ character (Miller), its dumb shifts in tone – they seriously thought they could get away with a serious suicide subplot – and its curious moral attitudes. Where Casey and Miller get their sense of ethical superiority over a pair of pot-smokers from after they have indulged in dangerous levels of alcohol abuse, physically mistreated friends and acquaintances, sexually abused a pair of total strangers and indulged in a manner of other crimes, I simply don’t know.
The things I was left confused by mostly centred on the bizarre depictions of American university life. I honestly can’t say whether the Eyes Wide Shut-portrayal of the fraternities and sororities is parody or not, being familiar with them only through silly US teen college comedy caper films (the cream of which 21 and Over so desperately wishes to be like and occasionally apes successfully). I also wasn’t sure what day it was meant to be – Jeff Chang has a job interview on what is presumably a weekday morning, yet the whole campus is partying well into the wee hours at what seems like the end of the century. And honestly, no hedonistic night could be as outrageous as is depicted here without the combined presence of Hunter S Thompson, George Best and Keith Moon. I could go on.
The point is though, that as stupid as the film is, it does make going out and partying look like a lot of fun and provokes laughter just frequently enough not to irk too much. So go see it, if this kind of thing is your bag. It was written and directed by the writers of The Hangover films, Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, which should really tell you everything you need to know. But is it as thrilling as forgetting to correctly print out boarding passes the night before you fly only to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat? Is anything?
21 and Over is released in UK cinemas on May 3rd.