CINEMA with SARAH O'CONNOR: A not very funny script which is plastered with expletives
21 & OVER (15)
THE opening frame of this movie shows two guys walking butt naked through a college campus, both wearing only a strategically placed sock, and one says to the other: "This never happened". The events to which he refers can only be guessed at, but already the tone has been set for what is to come — a flashback to the events of the night before and some crazy antics which only very drunk people would wish to pursue.
Written and directed by the team who wrote the far superior The Hangover (Jon Lucas and Scott Moore) 21 & Over introduces us to once college buddies Casey (Skylar Astin) and Miller (Miles Teller) who have reunited to take their old friend Jeff (Justin Chon) out for the night to celebrate his 21st birthday.
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Now Jeff has a big job interview at 8am the next morning and doesn't really want a night out on the booze, especially as his overbearing father (Francois Chau) has arranged the interview for him in the hope he will continue the family tradition of becoming a doctor.
But Miller, who is probably the most obnoxious and embarrassing friend you could think of having, is very persuasive, and what follows is predictable and highly unoriginal as the three friends go out, get drunk, and have to make their way home by the early hours.
Whereas The Hangover and its American equivalent American Pie, worked because the characters felt real, and perhaps more importantly, actually likeable, this movie has three main characters who you really couldn't care less about, so when they end up in ridiculous situations, rather than saying 'Aw, bless 'em', they just end up being aggravating to the point of nausea. And films of this genre which have done well in the past have all succeeded because the scripts were tight and funny and constantly surprising. Sadly this script is plastered with expletives, not very funny racial gags and not a lot else. And where it could have played up the more interesting problem of how do you sustain a college friendship when the people involved have all grown up and moved on, no such depths are sought. Instead we have a very 2D picture of relationships, motivations and outcomes, none of which we really care about because we are not encouraged at any point to care about the characters involved. There is no emotional depth here, and I can't imagine many people identifying with this motley crew.
Half way through the film we discover Jeff has a gun in his pocket and for a moment the plot becomes interesting, but then the writers don't follow it through and instead of enriching the story with another level which could have lifted the movie, we are left with an unsatisfactory explanation which feels almost like an afterthought, and proves a wasted opportunity to take the film down a more interesting path.
In its publicity, the film is described as a coming-of-drinking-age-comedy. Well there is certainly lots of drinking but sadly not much comedy to be had here. I gave up at the sight of a grown man stuffing a tampon into his mouth because he was so drunk he thought it was a candy bar. And if that wasn't enough, I was then supposed to watch him gag as he tried to swallow it. Stuff that gross just isn't funny.
The first half an hour contains all the best jokes and visuals, but the novelty soon wears off and predictability ensues. Getting laughs from the humiliation of others, from projectile vomiting, and from drunken men dressed in women's bras feels like just a cheap shot, or maybe it's just immaturity on the part of the film makers as this is their first time directing. Either way, you will feel cheated of your admission money.