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“21 & Over” – Early Review (POSITIVE)

February 13, 2013

Screen shot 2013-02-13 at 9.41.36 PM“21 & Over” is an overbearing alcoholic comedy that resembles a similar sort of path that the 2009 hit “The Hangover” had done before, but where they differ in plot and character arcs makes “21 & Over” a big surprise, and hopefully some success come opening weekend.

This is a movie that I was, quite frankly, dreading. To me it resembled last years “Project X”, which I found to be quite moronic and lackluster, and yet like a movie that was released last March that I wasn’t looking forward to, which also housed the number ’21’ (“21 Jump Street”), it surprised me and became one of my favorite comedies of last year.

When Straight-A college student Jeff Chang’s (Justin Chon) two best friends, Miller (Miles Teller) & Casey (Skylar Astin) take him out for his 21st birthday on the night before an important medical school interview, what was supposed to be a quick beer becomes a night of humiliation, over indulgence and utter debauchery. The problem they face, getting a very VERY unconscious Jeff Chang back to his campus housing. An even bigger problem, Miller & Casey don’t remember where he lives…

So, why should you go see “21 & Over”? The writing/directing duo, and creators of the original “Hangover” film, Jon Lucas & Scott Moore, make the wise choice to cast essentially a no-name (or ‘not big named’) cast. The three leads, Miles Teller, Skylar Astin, and Justin Chon have unbelievably the best on screen chemistry this year has given us so far. Teller & Astin’s banter is undeniably the shining star of the film, Teller sometimes borderlines Vince Vaughn territory — ok, maybe not borderlines, he actually goes there, but it works for him I think. Chon is given the role of the ‘typical’ Asian med student, but the filmmakers make a wise choice in switching up the stereotype of the smart Asian teenager, I’m not trying to sound racist or anything, but when you see the movie you’ll understand what I mean. Besides, there are plenty of racial jokes to go around in this movie, mostly coming from the Miller character, but I digress.

Screen shot 2013-02-13 at 9.48.21 PMWhat I really have to give a lot of credit to though is the directing team of Scott Moore & Jon Lucas, these guys are actually brilliant screenwriters, they did wonders on “The Hangover” (yet the didn’t return for “Part II”, wise choice), they did scribe the comedy flop “The Change-Up”, but I blame the direction BIG time, and from interviews with them, I believe they felt the same way. Moore & Lucas take it upon themselves to have total creative freedom by directing and writing and it shows. It goes back to the prime “Hangover” feel, but at the same time finds a cohesive balance of actual drama and realism regarding the friendship these characters have. The movie even goes as far as to discuss some pretty dark topical issues in a college students life. That was an aspect of the film I truly admired.

While at times, the movie can resemble too much of “The Hangover”, point in case goes to the opening (which is the ending timeline) then reverts to that moment by the near end of Act III. And I can see that the movie borrows elements of other films; “Animal House”“Beerfest”, and even “Weekend at Bernie’s”. And while it may not be the most ORIGINAL idea ever conceived, it does find it’s place in telling a story that is relatable on a certain level and has a fantastic cast dynamic, which to be fare, worked in the first “Hangover’s” favor. Oh, and this is probably the only movie out there where they make a vomiting scene quite beautiful to look at. Can someone say, ‘LOL’?

GRADE: B+

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