Matt Pais, @mattpais
RedEye movie critic
February 28, 2013
*1/2 (out of four)
If the raucous, unjustly maligned “Project X” recalled hollering in the center of a bonkers, you-had-to-be-there party, “21 and Over” feels like being a sober, irritated designated driver wondering how much longer you have to spend with jackasses you never liked much to begin with.
In many ways, the directorial debut from writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore (who also wrote “The Hangover”) is like “Nephew of The Hangover.” A trio of Washington State college seniors engage in a crazy, intoxicated night with potentially disastrous consequences: The universe being a cruel jokester, wild card Jeff Chang (Justin Chon) has a huge medical school interview the morning after his 21st birthday celebration initiated by his old high school pals, the outgoing Miller (formerly promising Miles Teller of “Rabbit Hole” and “Footloose”) and uptight Casey (Skylar Astin of “Pitch Perfect”).
What results is juvenile in the worst way: Jeff urinates from the top of a bar into a crowd of people, slow-motion vomits from a mechanical bull and eats a tampon. Because Lucas and Moore can't go three minutes without a joke about someone's heritage, they constantly play racism for laughs (like Miller affectionately calling Jeff, “You tiny, yellow son of a bitch”). This also includes an accidental stop at a Latina sorority house, a scene descended from and inferior to the African-American fraternity encounter in “Road Trip,” a Todd Phillips movie these writers didn't pen.
By the way: When one character in “21 and Over” offers the defense, “Just ’cause I look like this doesn't mean I don't have feelings,” it's a white guy.
Occasionally the drunken stupidity takes on amusing, in-the-moment absurdity, whether Jeff dazedly mumbles a need for cereal or the search for Jeff's address—so Miller and Casey can get their passed out friend home—leads to an awesome-looking, multi-level drinking game. Yet there's no defense for Miller pulling out a gun to steal an enemy's phone and no denying the oppressive laziness of “21 and Over,” both in its quintessential disinterest in female characters (Sarah Wright plays the mandatory hot girl with a jerky boyfriend) or reliance on the plotline of a kid pressured into a career by an overbearing parent.
Movies like “Superbad” prove that one wild night on the big screen can be freaking hilarious without turning its characters into stereotypical assfaces. “21 and Over” occasionally nods to the guys' shifting priorities and drifting friendships but prefers homophobia and cracks about sex with Casey's underage sister to any recognition that it's possible to both work hard and play hard.
Sadly, the film includes songs from both Frightened Rabbit and the Gaslight Anthem, fantastic bands likely to despise this dimwitted batch of cliches and crassness. Speaking of music: If Miller so enjoys Soundgarden and bands of that era, how does he spend hours wearing only a sock on his junk and not say anything about the Red Hot Chili Peppers?
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