The new raunchy, lazy, drunk-buddy-comedy 21 and Over is super-bad. Not to be confused with the very funny 2007 film, Superbad, although both feature young friends and plenty of alcohol. Bad as in awful (21 and Over hits theaters today).
The film mixes every tired cliche imaginable and regurgitates (quite literally) chunks of other, better films. Jeff Chang (Justin Chon) is a college pre-med student due for a very important interview in the morning that could decide his future. But the night before, his two best friends from high school, Miller (Miles Teller) and Casey (Skylar Astin) show up to surprise him and to take him out for his birthday. Of course he agrees to go out for "one drink" and the rest is history.
We all know what "one drink" means. It leads to a night full of craziness, tons of alcohol, women, fighting and lots of R-rated absurdity. When Jeff Chang passes out, his two friends carry him around, Weekend At Bernie's-style, as they try to remember exactly where he lived, so they can get him home in time for his big interview before his controlling dad finds out.
Now it must be said that this film critic is not at all easily offended. Seth McFarlane hosting the Oscars? Mildly entertaining to me. In fact, I can't think of a single film, TV show or song that has ever truly offended me in the moral sense of the word. 21 and Over not so much offended me, as much as it did shock me with how horribly unfunny and irresponsible this so-called comedy was.
Take for example, that the entire script is laced with racially-motivated dialogue and jokes. Their dear friend Jeff Chang is never once referred to as just Jeff, but always Jeff Chang. There are several Asian stereotypes at work here, from Jeff Chang to his overbearing father. Cheap jokes, about how Asians can't drive to how their eyes slant, no tired cliche was left unearthed.
Asian stereotypes weren't the only thing in play. Miles Teller - who caught attention and was quite good in the Footloose remake - is basically Stiffler (American Pie), or John Blutarsky (Animal House), the party-all-the-time walking, talking id. Skylar Astin - who was also quite good in last year's Pitch Perfect - plays the straight-arrowed, uptight friend who just needs to loosen up a bit. There is the pretty, but clueless blonde love interest (Sarah Wright) and her stereotypical jock boyfriend (Jonathan Keltz), complete with his entourage of dummy friends.
Written by the duo that brought us The Hangover and The Hangover Part II, we start to see some shocking themes emerge. First, all three screenplays feature an over-the-top Asian stereotype. All three begin with some shocking imagery before flashing back to see what has brought us to this point. All three glorify drinking, partying and laughing at the consequences. All three revolve around guys and try to carry themes of friendship and loyalty.
Of the three however, only The Hangover seemed fresh, because it was at the time. Even more importantly, it was the only one of the three that was funny. At the end of the day, absurdity is often in the eyes of the beholder, but if a comedy isn't funny, its flaws are amplified.
But 21 and Over isn't just a rehash of old material. It creates a new and shocking reality that I found to be quite disturbing. When the friends throw poor Jeff Chang out of a third-story window, the girl isn't shocked. She instead commends Skylar Astin's character for not being so uptight, seeing his action as a sign of...what, manliness? It wasn't surprising to see the parent (Francois Chau) as the antagonist - in many teen and young adult comedies, there is no greater evil than the parent - but when one of the friends literally punches dad in the face, he is applauded as being a "good friend."
None of this is presented in a satirical way that would suggest that these aren't real emotions being expressed by the characters. Yes, I know that kids don't seem to respect their elders like back in the day, but no friend of mine would ever think to strike a family member and if he did, a "friend" would be the furthest descriptive word that I could find.
Perhaps as a 33-year old, I am too old for movies like 21 and Over. I'm a fan of stoner movie or movies where life is a party and time is short. But because both of those things are true, don't waste your time with this horrible-minded, mean-spirited, unfunny disaster, where drunk boys eat tampons and each caricature represents a misfired joke.
Friends don't let friends watch movies like 21 and Over.
Run Time: 1 hour, 33 minutes, Rated R
Starring: Miles Teller, Skylar Astin, Justin Chon, Sarah Wright, Jonathan Keltz, Francois Chau
Written & Directed by Jon Lucas & Scott Moore (directorial debut for both, writers of The Hangover, The Hangover Part II, The Change-Up)
Opens locally on Friday, March 1, 2013 (check for show times).
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How to read Tom Santilli's "Star Ratings:"
- 5 Stars: Exceptional, must-see movie
- 4 Stars: Very good movie, not without flaws
- 3 Stars: The movie was just OK, leaves a lot to be desired
- 2 Stars: Pretty bad, a let-down, disappointing, but with some redeeming qualities
- 1 Star: Awful, sloppy, a total waste of time