Friday, March 22, 2013

Not Quite The Blackout We Were Expecting: Our Review of "21 & Over" (2013)

Directed By: Jon Lucas & Scott Moore (writers of The Hangover trilogy) 

Starring: Miles Teller, Skylar Astin, Justin Chong, Sarah Wright

Rating: R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, some graphic nudity, drugs and drinking

Run Time: 1 hour, 33 minutes

Synopsis: Miller (Teller) and Casey (Astin), best friends from high school, visit their other friend Jeff (Chong) to celebrate his 21st birthday. But when Jeff blacks out after drinking too much, Miller and Casey can't remember where he lives and wind up spending of the night trying to get him home before his big med school interview in the morning...and learning more about the current state of their friendships than they knew.


Andrew: Hello readers! Sarah and I both had the day off from work yesterday so we decided to catch a matinee showing of a film we A.) haven't had the time to see until now, and B.) didn't catch our attention with the trailers too much but had been hearing good things about. That movie was 21 & Over, starring Miles Teller (Rabbit Hole) and Skylar Astin (Pitch Perfect) as a pair of friends named Miller and Casey who visit their friend Jeff Chang (Twilight's Justin Chong) at college to celebrate his 21st birthday. Even though JeffChang - always referred to as JeffChang, one word, even in the credits - has an important med school interview the next morning, Miller and Casey proceed to get him blitzed and the trio fall into some Hangover-esque shenanigans.

As mentioned earlier, Sarah, this wasn't one that we were dying to see, but now that we've seen 21 & Over, what did you think of it?

Sarah: Yeah, I didn't have high hopes for this one. I thought it looked pretty stupid, I thought we had seen all the best parts in the trailer, I thought it seemed derivative of every other college movie out there, but then we saw it.....and I was pleasantly surprised! I actually really liked this movie! You get really invested in the characters and it actually has a couple of darker undertones to it. But it's hilarious in a college humor kind of way. It was funny, I was invested in characters, I liked the story and the actors. I thoroughly enjoyed this one. What did you think of it?

A: I'm right there with you. When we saw the trailers for this one, I totally agree, I didn't have high hopes for it even though it had Skylar Astin in it and we enjoyed him in Pitch Perfect. But then I looked into it a little more and found out it was directed by the guys who wrote all three Hangover movies, as well as the underrated The Change-Up, so now it makes sense that it felt like a cousin to those movies...

S: It has some pedigree to it.

A: Exactly. But you're absolutely right, it certainly has juvenile humor, it's raunchy, it's crude, it's vulgar...but there's also a surprising amount of heart in it. And that's where movies like this get bumped up just a bit above the rest. That's where the difference lies between a movie like this and Project X

S: Right.

A: You know, these friends really do kind of care about one another, but I like what Jon Lucas and Scott Moore did in that they go to a very realistic depiction of high school friends...

S: Who have started to go their separate ways now that they're in college and going to different schools.

A: Exactly. They've separated, they're not the friends that they used to be and that's starting to hit home with them. And I don't really remember the last film I've seen that was like that or touched on that in this good a way. The American Pie movies kind of did, but those films dealt more with realizing what's going to happen or looking back and realizing things changed years after the fact. In 21 & Over we're seeing the realization dawn on these friends as it's happening, and I liked that.

S: That realization of, "We're not as close of friends as we thought we were anymore."

A: And that's sobering, you know? It was a nice counter-point to the comedic aspects.

S: And it was incredibly true. Friends' relationships change, and when you go off to college you do sort of separate like this whether on purpose or just the natural course of things. So this depiction was very realistic and very believable. I liked that about it a lot.

I really liked Skylar Astin in this film. I think he's a very good actor and he plays the straight-guy and the funny guy really well, plus we know he can sing!

A: He's a very versatile young actor. I think Astin has a very bright future ahead of him.

S: But I also really liked the character of Miller. I thought, of all the characters, his was the most believable as the friend from high school who's sort of a screw-up and who all the parents thought wasn't going to go anywhere and ends up being a self-fulfilling prophecy kind of guy. Teller played a very realistic character. I thought he was good and for some reason I loved his voice! He reminds me of someone and I can't think of who it is, but anyway...

A: I've heard that Teller does a great job in that Nicole Kidman movie, Rabbit Hole, and in the Footloose remake they did a couple years ago. So I kinda want to go back and watch those movies now to check him out in those.

But yeah, I think another thing I liked was that it's these two guys; it's Miles Teller's and Skylar Astin's movie. You know, there's very little time when one or both of them isn't on the screen.

S: Right, and very little screen-time where JeffChang is actually speaking. (laughs)

A: True! But so it was important that the film-makers cast the right guys as Miller and Casey, and they were very believable as friends and they did a great job filling the roles they played. But then I also liked, it was kind of unexpected to me, there's something going on with JeffChang, and this goes back to how these friends aren't as close to one another as they used to be, but there's something going on with him and as the movie unfolds you learn more about JeffChang...

S: And it unfolds slowly, like it's not all dumped on you right at the end. Little bit by little bit Miller and Casey find out these things about their friend, and when they do we also learn more about that character. It was cleverly done! And you know what? I didn't know that the guys that wrote the Hangover movies did this movie - it's totally a college Hangover movie. I mean, it really is except during the drunken part of it. It's extremely clever! Cleverly done and impressive, really.

A: I think some people might look at this as a negative and it kind of changes what the movie is about and what they're doing, but I really enjoyed the Tower of Power segment.

S: I did too!

A: It felt very Harold & Kumar or Beerfest-esque, this little montage they did, and it still ended with a heartfelt moment. Just a lot of this movie felt really real or was handled in a way that caught me off guard in a good way.

S: We learn more about JeffChang in that scene, too. And really these two guys are the main characters of the movie but it's not about them necessarily. It's about their discovery of what's been happening to their friend without their knowledge.

A: Anything that you didn't like about it?

S: I thought it was a little long...

A: I felt that, too, at the time we were watching it but I didn't look at it as a bad thing. It was surprising to me in its length, but I never felt like it dragged...

S: No, no, it was more like, "Oh, we're not done yet. Nice!" And it started out pretty fast, too. There wasn't like this long, slow intro, it was pretty quick.

I didn't really like the bad guy, you know, the guy they kept running into?

A: Oh yeah, Rodney, the male cheerleader that JeffChang does something to in a bar and makes an enemy out of him for the rest of the film.

S: He was just more annoying than anything else.

A: Well him and his cronies. They're what I didn't like.

S: Yeah.

A: Like I can always accept the token jock/jerk character in a movie like this, but his cronies were annoying.

S: They were just kind of stupid. Besides that and some minor character things, I really, really liked 21 & Over. I thought it was well-done for what it was. Going in with no expectations helped.

A: Definitely.

S: In comparison to movies like Project X which came out last year...

A & S (in unison): This was way better.

S: So much more believable it's not even funny.

A: And again it has heart. And I think that's probably the most important part of it we didn't know going in. Alright, so what's our final word on it?

S: If you're able to catch this one in theatres it's a fun one to go see. Otherwise definitely check it out when it's on DVD.

FINAL VERDICT: A fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon!

(Individual Scores - S: 3.5/5  A: 3.5/5)

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