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Old tricks, older adventures in chaotic '21 and Over'

Relativity Media

By Brian Burlage, Daily Arts Writer
Published March 18, 2013

The days of filming wild Vegas shenanigans are over — the jig is up, the marrow sucked dry. It’s no longer enough to construct a plot driven by shameful drinking binges or to derive a film’s humor from an hour and a half of redundant stereotyping. In their directorial debut, Jon Lucas and Scott Moore have made “21 and Over” a predictable, exceedingly raunchy mimicry of their former projects. Though the duo wrote “The Hangover” and basically invented movies based off alcohol-fueled nightmares, this film plummets into an abysmal repetition of a quickly fading storyline.

Justin Chon (“Twilight”) stars as Jeff Chang, a stellar student with sights set on medical school, turns 21 the day before his big interview. Despite having a militant, nearly omniscient father proctoring his every move, Chang joins his childhood friends Casey (Skylar Astin, “Pitch Perfect”) and Miller (Miles Teller, “Footloose”) for a night of fun. As Chang grows increasingly proud of his new immunity to bouncer heckling, he scurries deeper and deeper into intoxication until danger and public humiliation are just part of the fun.

While the story has potential and focuses on the universal struggles of adolescence and education, there are just too many unnecessary exaggerations and drawn-out sequences. Chang — already far-departed from sobriety — takes a ride on a mechanical bull at one of the bars. Of course, it’s not enough to show his limp body get tossed around without limit or boundary, so a full-minute scene is dedicated to capturing images of his projectile vomit from various angles.

In another example, Casey and Miles find themselves in a sorority house, which, in all fairness, poses some legitimate humor. Instead, the boys manipulate a couple of pledge girls into performing prolonged sexual acts for no real purpose.

For the few jokes that emerge like diamonds in the rough, the lack of creativity and inconsistent humor tarnish any redeemable quality. Because it’s easy to tell which scenes were written for deliberate laughs, the entire film comes across almost like a gimmick to ensure viewers that getting completely trashed will always work out perfectly in the end. It’s as though each crazed scene is compiled to form a defense against irresponsibility and self-humiliation.

The extent of exaggeration — almost identical to its cousin film, “The Hangover” — removes all credibility from the characters and wrong plot turns. Contrary to the portrait that “21 and Over” paints, collegiate raunchiness doesn’t always equal collegiate funniness. And since the party scenes, adolescent debauchery and sexuality only function as means of achieving a perfect ending for all who participated, viewers are left wondering why they shouldn’t strive for the same frenzy. After all, it is, according to this film, a surefire way to get exactly what you want.