Remember how director Todd Phillips just half-heartedly remade “The Hangover” in “The Hangover Part II?” Remember how lethargic, lame, and tedious it felt having to sit through the same movie over again with fewer laughs? That’s the best way to describe “21 and Over.” The film marks the directorial debut of Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, the writing team behind the original “Hangover.” They’ve basically recycled their smash hit comedy beat for beat. Where “The Hangover Part II” at least had three laugh-out-loud moments though, there’s nothing even remotely funny in “21 and Over.” It’s a comedic dead zone from its opening scene all the way through.
Miles Teller is Miller and Skylar Astin is Casey, two childhood friends who had a falling out once college started. They’re reunited on the birthday of Jeff Chang, their third friend played by Justin Chon, who is turning 21. Although Jeff Chang has a big medical school interview in the morning, he decides to go out with his chums for a drunken night. After getting Chang plastered, Miller and Casey decide it’s time to get the aspiring doctor home. The problem is, they don’t remember where he lives. Thus, another wolf pack of party animals race to get a friend home while having a series of misadventures.
Instead of crossing paths with a tiger, they’re attacked by a buffalo. Instead of being pursued by the Chinese mafia, it’s a sorority of Latina girls. It’s all tasteless, it’s all tired, and it’s all beyond boring. Imagine waking up one morning with a bad hangover, feeling really stupid and regretful about the previous night. That’s what sitting through this movie is like. Maybe this was the filmmakers’ intention, but “21 and Over” is still an unpleasant experience nonetheless.
Astin has been fun in a couple lighthearted comedies like “Pitch Perfect” and “Hamlet 2,” but is pretty forgettable here. Teller’s Miller is a crude, foulmouthed copy of Jonah Hill’s character in “Superbad,” never emerging as somebody we can like. He’s just obnoxious and kind of mean-spirited. As for Chon, he’s a dedicated actor and pretty nice guy in real life. Alas, he’s saddled with a thankless “Weekend at Bernie’s” role that just requires him to be out cold for an hour and a half. On the rare occasion that Chon is conscious, it’s only to do something gross like puking on a mechanical bull, eating a tampon, or gluing a teddy bear to his penis.
The supporting cast is comprised of effortless stock characters we’ve seen in a million other comedies before. Sarah Wright plays Nicole, Casey’s love interest who doesn’t have any character traits or funny lines. She’s solely there to smile and be the girlfriend. Jonathan Keltz is additionally pretty lazily written as a cookie cutter bully with no redeeming values or humanity. We also get another really cheap Asian father stereotype in Chang’s dad, played by François Chau, who is so stern one might think he’s a serial killer.
The cast is mostly blameless, however. Lucas and Moore have simply constructed an unoriginal script that ultimately ends on a somewhat negative message for young audiences. This duo’s other credits include “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past,” “The Change-Up,” and “Four Christmases.” With “21 and Over” added to their dismal filmography, it’s becoming clearer that “The Hangover” was a fluke for them. Then again, it was allegedly reported that Todd Phillips rewrote their initial “Hangover” script anyways. So maybe Lucas and Moore never had any talent to begin with.
• Ahwatukee native and Desert Vista graduate Nick Spake is a student at Arizona State University. He has been working as a film critic for five years, reviewing movies on his website, NICKPICKSFLICKS.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.