October 6, 2022

I doubt there’s any genre of film more formulaic than the teen party comedy. A group of guys, out for a solid night of partying, get caught up in a bunch of crazy hi-jinx, get drunk, do some casual misogynistic stuff, and are all closer friends at the end. We’ve seen a ton over the last several years, like Superbad, the Hangover, or Project X. This weekend we can add a new one to the list with 21 & Over; another movie about booze, chicks, and vomit that does nothing new or particularly interesting, but if you’re willing to let it, can still get you laughing and surprise you with a little bit (and I stress little bit) of heart.

Written by Matt

I doubt there’s any genre of film more formulaic than the teen party comedy. A group of guys, out for a solid night of partying, get caught up in a bunch of crazy hi-jinx, get drunk, do some casual misogynistic stuff, and are all closer friends at the end. We’ve seen a ton over the last several years, like Superbad, the Hangover, or Project X. This weekend we can add a new one to the list with 21 & Over; another movie about booze, chicks, and vomit that does nothing new or particularly interesting, but if you’re willing to let it, can still get you laughing and surprise you with a little bit (and I stress little bit) of heart.

21 & Over, written and directed by the Hangover’s Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, is the story of two friends, Miller (Miles Teller) and Casey (Skylar Astin), who surprise their best friend, Jeff Chang (Justin Chon), on his 21st birthday. But there’s a twist! He has a big med school interview the next morning, and needs to act responsibly. Well, next thing we know he’s doing body-shots off obese men and getting naked. The bulk of the film is the Odyssey-like journey to get Jeff Chang home and ready for his interview.

I definitely didn’t have the highest hopes walking in to the theatre, but I had a pretty good time with 21 & Over. Again, it does nothing to push the genre forward, but it’s not like the up-all-night party genre is really the type of film you go to for existential theoretical perspectives, you go to them to laugh, and I totally did. It’s not consistently funny, but the comedy is enough to please the film’s target audience. Yeah, there’s a scene where one of the guys eats a tampon, but there’s also some hilarious moments, like the villain’s closeted homosexual posse (“Fuck me in the ass, Randy!”).

The performances are lively and hilarious, especially from Teller, whose comedic timing and hyperactive presence make for some satisfying fun. Chon is also great in the role of a half-dead college student. The trio have some great chemistry, and come together in the last chunk to create some surprisingly heartfelt moments. As derivative as it may be, they make the most of it.

21 & Over still falls into the same tropes and cliches as its counterparts in the genre. It’s just as apologetically sexist as all the others, with a scene where Miller and Casey spank  two blindfolded sorority girls and force them to make out. Casey’s love interest (Sarah Wright) is also a complete fantasy woman who spouts unrealistic sexually charged lines of dialogue that no human being would naturally say. It would be really interesting to see this genre tackled by a group of women, in the same vein as Bridemaids, but in a college party setting. If men really wanted to see this type of objectification of women that badly, there’s places on the internet where they can get it for free.

The film really just does nothing new. It’s as predictable as watching grass grow, and is really just not all that memorable. I didn’t even find myself particularly grossed out, which is usually expected from teen movies like this. But if you’re in the film’s target demographic, it’s definitely worth checking out. You’ll still find yourself laughing, and having a good time. No one will be blown away by 21 & Over, but you could definitely do worse. It may feel like a recycled script, but it works within its genre to provide some cheap, dumb laughs, and even a little soul.