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21 and Over

February 20, 2013
21 and Over

The writing team behind The Hangover — not of its doppelgänger sequel — has returned to their most successful material for their directorial debut. Jon Lucas and Scott Moore have crafted another epic-lost-night and taken their seats behind the camera for 21 and Over. It’s a smaller film, with lower-budget stars and scenery, but it delivers well on a sometimes-predictable story.

The core cast is also simpler, cut back from three to two: a straight man and a cutup. And, since any comedy duo needs a MacGuffin to argue over, we throw in a blind-drunk Asian-American kid. Casey (Skylar Astin) and Miller (Miles Teller) arrive at the campus of Northern Pacific University (University of Washington) for the twenty-first birthday of their old high school buddy JeffChang (Justin Chon). Somehow I knew from the trailer that the credits would spell his name like that.

As it turns out, this is also the night before JeffChang’s big medical school interview, which his intimidating father Dr. Chang (Francois Chau) has arranged. But the party can’t be delayed because Miller has tickets the next night for Soundgarden, which is evidently still a thing. They compromise and take JeffChang out for one beer.

Of course, one beer quickly becomes several, including shots poured straight into JeffChang’s mouth, Coyote Ugly style. Casey clumsily chats up one young student (Sarah Wright), and a fight almost breaks out when a dart goes through the cheek of another (Jonathan Keltz), both of whom we’re clearly going to see more of. This is all at the first bar, by the way.

A montage of other bars follows, leaving our heroes lost with a blacked-out JeffChang on their hands and no idea where he lives. The mission is clear: track down JeffChang’s apartment and return him there in time to be up and ready for his interview the next morning. Along the way they’ll dig up what’s been going on with their friend for the last few years, and they’ll learn a few things about their own friendship as well, and just maybe about themselves.

The University of Washington campus doesn’t provide the same breadth of opportunity for debauchery as Las Vegas does, but Lucas and Moore do all right coming up with hijinks that for the most part don’t seem jarringly implausible. Astin and Teller handle themselves pretty well, though too many scenes early on degenerate into Teller doing shtick. They may not be the next Laurel and Hardy, but they’re easily on a par with contemporary duos like John Cho and Kal Penn. And Chon is something else entirely, bringing just the right combination of physicality and shamelessness that a character like JeffChang needs.

It will come as no surprise that Miller will grow up a bit, Casey will “grow down” and get the girl, the bully will be pacified, and JeffChang will be in his apartment on time and in more or less one piece. Getting there is all of the fun in a movie like this, and there’s a fair bit of fun to be had, indeed.

Worth It: yes.
Bechdel Test: fail.

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