There’s going to be plenty of comparisons flying around this weekend between “21 and Over” and “The Hangover.”
That’s fine, Casey argues. They’ll go out, have one drink, have Jeff Chang back home before midnight and fresh and ready for his interview.
So of course that doesn’t happen. (Does it ever? I’d actually like a movie to be built around the premise where nothing wild happens the night before, but with crazy stuff happening because everyone involved was responsible, but I’m rambling. Ahem.)
It doesn’t take long before Jeff Chang is impossibly drunk and passed out, only for Miles and Casey to be stranded in the middle of an unfamiliar college town with no clue how to get their friend back home. What follows is a comedy of epic errors as they traipse across campus in the hope of finding someone, anyone who might know Jeff Chang’s house is.
It’s familiar stuff, to be sure, as are most of the shenanigans that ensue, i.e. mixups at a sorority house, an arrogant popular guy who wants to beat up our protagonists, the uptight member of the crew learns to let loose, the irresponsible one becomes less so, etc.
What’s surprising about all of this is that it never feels tiresome or even necessarily warmed over. It’s well-tread ground, but it’s delivered with enthusiasm and energy and I suppose that really can make all the difference as there’s not a single unexpected beat.
It really can’t be stressed enough how well Teller and Austin hold this thing together through sheer force of will and enthusiasm. Teller, especially. The guy hit my radar when he showed up as the lovable hick Willard in Craig Brewer’s (surprisingly worthwhile) remake of “Footloose” last year.
He was relegated to supporting status there, but “21 and Over” proves the kid’s got what it takes to carry a movie on his own merits. Yes, he’s your typical carefree instigator, but comes across as so affable and likable that it doesn’t matter if you’ve seen this archetype in literally every single similar movie ever.
He’s got solid chemistry with Austin, though Austin has even less to work with in terms of character than Teller, so he ends up coming across a bit flat. Still, they make the moments count, especially when the script actually tries to give things an emotional heart. It, again, is all rote stuff, but at least it tries in earnest.
If there’s a shortcoming or disappointment (I guess you’d call it that, though I had no expectations at all so I’m not sure such a classification applies), it’s that Chon is sorely underused. Jeff Chang is little more than a prop for the majority of the film, being (often literally) tossed around for comedic effect.
Chon doesn’t have much time spent conscious but he brings a nice bit of manic energy to the proceedings when he is.
“21 and Over” isn’t going to change the world, it’s probably not even going to top the box office this weekend, despite the money-making pedigree of its creators, but it’s heart is in the right place and it delivers some solid, earned laughs along the way, rarely ever stooping to cheap humor and/or sight gags, a true rarity in today’s world.
If nothing else, I’ll say I enjoyed it more than “The Hangover,” because at least this is populated by normal, mostly decent people, whereas the “Hangover” mostly became tiresome by about halfway through either film.
You’re probably best off waiting to Netflix this, but there are worse ways to spend a matinee this weekend.