21 AND OVER
(Dirs. Jon Lucas & Scott Moore, 2013)
After writing a string of crappy commercial comedies, including FOUR CHRISTMASES, GHOSTS OF GIRLFRIEND’S PAST , THE CHANGE-UP, and THE HANGOVER movies, Jon Lucas and Scott Moore present their directorial debut, 21 AND OVER, an extremely crappy college party comedy.
It’s a movie that could be considered “teensploitation,” that is, a film directed at teens by way of ingredients such as sex, alcohol, drugs, and violence. In the course of one crude crazy night, protagonists Miles Teller and Skylar Astin encounter all of these as they try to get their wasted friend (Justin Chon) back home in time for a medical school interview early in the morning.
That’s all the plot there is here. There’s no twist or satiric take on this well worn material, there’s no likability factor present with any of the characters, and worst of all there are no laughs. Not one.
It comes off like a bunch of outtakes from THE HANGOVER movies, but with no star power (there’s not one recognizable name in the cast). It’s like Lucas and Scott decided to make a movie out of the end credits photo collage of wild hard-drinking partying that both HANGOVER movies end with, so we get more than one amped up montage of beer guzzling, shot taking, and drug-taking action.
The first time directors also thought a scene featuring slow motion projectile vomit, spewed by Chon from the top of a mechanical bull, would equal big laughs, but I have a feeling they equate disgusted groans with laughs.
All of this sordid unfunny stuff is made worse by the lack of charisma in the two leads, Teller and Astin.
As the two tired as Hell archetypes, Teller is the snarky obnoxious pushy one who won’t take “no” to partying as an answer, and Astin is the more sensible sensitive one who spends the movie pining for a coed (Sarah Wright). Wright, of course, has a bullyish brute for a boyfriend (Jonathan Keltz) that Astin and Teller tangle with throughout the movie.
Although they drink heavily, Teller and Astin never act drunk. They always seem to have enough of a head on their shoulders to weather what comes at them. Even very late in the movie, when they get captured by angry girls from a Hispanic sorority (who aim to punish them for a crime that I’d rather not go into) and get forced into a gay panic scenario, they seem completely sober. I wish I wasn’t when watching this.
Seth MacFarlane got a lot of flack earlier this week for how racist, sexist, and homophobic his jokes as Oscar host were, but the real problem to me wasn’t his subject matter, it was that none of it was funny. I believe that in terms of comedy, nothing is sacred - no topic should be too taboo - but there has to be some element of relatable humor involved.
In the case of 21 AND OVER there is not one trace of amusement. It’s a base exercise that makes the HAROLD & KUMAR movies look like high comic art. Here’s hoping its target audience will skip it. This is one time that a real night of drinking and debauchery would sure do them a lot more good than seeing this pile of pure puke.