Monday, 6 May 2013

'21 and Over' - Review

21 and Over

Directed by: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore
Starring: Justin Chon, Skylar Astin, Miles Teller,
Written by: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore

Rating: 4/10

Probably best you give this one a miss.

That's what the studio execs should have said to Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, a notable comedic writer team known for penning all scripts for the three parts of the "Hangover", "Ghost of Girlfriends Past" and the ever entertaining, "The Change-Up". This is their first attempt at directing, and to be very frank, it reads like the first draft of "The Hangover". If, you know, the first draft had the same joke about Asian people being incredible overachievers pulled every 15 minutes, and a bunch of ridiculous gross out gags that get nowhere.

It would be a shame to refer to this writing/directing team as a one-trick pony (mostly since they've penned three fan favourite films) but there's no reason to repeat "The Hangover". I spent a good two days trying to come up with something, well, anything to say about this film and this should really be telling of it. It feels like they wanted to play it safe, and they've done it to a tee - the film is in such padded territory that it becomes unfunny for large parts of the film.

The film itself is essentially a bildungsroman, a coming-of-age tale, as the name should astutely reveal. The film centres on Skylar Astin's "Casey", a stand-up guy who is an undergrad at Stanford, and "Miller" (Miles Teller), the  Stifler of American Pie Fame carbon-copy, as they travel to meet their best friend, "Jeff Chang" (Justin Chon). It's Chang's 21st birthday, and Miller strong-arms both of his friends into heading out for a night out on the town to celebrate this eponymous event - and in their first bar, the boys manage to pierce the face of a guy called "Randy", someone who they re-encounter again and again and again. The catch in this game? Chang is expected to be ready at 7am the following day, for his father has set up a prestigious interview for medical school for him. Hilarity and foolish drunkenness are expected to ensue as the boys race to get Chang home, as he spends a large portion of the story unconscious or in states that are near enough to (a fact which many in the audience were very envious of) and neither of them can remember where he lives. There's a fair amount of comic set ups, such as two blindfolded sorority girls who believe they are receiving a hazing when they are being spanked by the conscious two male leads, an event for which they want to exact revenge.

Funnily enough, Miller and Casey are only referred to by their one name - there's never an extension. However, Jeff Chang is constantly referred to in full - which is one of those repetitive gags that is initially funny, then unfunny, and then somewhat slightly chuckle inducing towards the end. We took it as a way to reinforce the American-Chinese heritage of the lead, but it could have easily doubled up as one of the many tired and over-used jokes of the film. All three leads, while likeable and believable enough, are sadly no match for the great team they are modelled on - they have not the oddball comedy of Zach Galifianakis, the charm of Bradley Cooper or the understated out of place like-ability of Ed Helms. Even the best set ups are stolen straight from "The Hangover", which again adds to the first-draft hypothesis - instead of a tiger, we get a comic run around with a buffalo. Instead of gangsters and drug deals, you get a crazy Latin sorority and assorted undergraduates.

There's all the hallmarks of the crazy wild night films - the bully that won't leave them alone (Randy), the love interest who keeps showing up at all the most difficult and troubling times of the film to allow Casey to be repeatedly embarrassed (Nicole).

There's talk of an edited version being released in China due to constraints placed by the Chinese authorities. The film's plot will be slightly altered, to show a boy who experiences the corrupt ways of America, to return to his homeland a better person. I half wish we'd seen that version instead.

What the Mr thought:

It's a film that falls at every comic hurdle, coming up trumps on almost all of them - barely able to carry the comedic tune. If you've seen the Hangover, then do not do it a disservice by watching this - not Lucas and Moore's best work.

What the Misses thought:

The Mr said it all. It almost felt like a diluted version of the first Hangover, left me disappointed and as the Mr and I had discussed before seeing the film, the majority of the funniest parts were in the trailer.

But you didn't hear it from us,

Mr & Misses

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