Review: ‘21 and Over’

“This is the Best Movie Ever,” proclaimed some chatter-happy jackass behind me as one of our three leads spewed his weight in alcohol towards the camera in glorious slow-motion. I didn’t get it. I couldn’t get it. As a person used to being reminded that not everything can be “Citizen Kane,” that some of us just like to enjoy movies, I struggled to fathom how the first fifteen minutes of “21 and Over” -- a proud parade of debauchery and other politically incorrect hobbies until that point and for long after -- had already provided everything this young man could want out of a motion picture.

Maybe he simply craved the comfort of the tried-and-true formula in which an uptight overachiever, like the one played by Skylar Astin, learns to loosen up. A story in which a beer-guzzling boor, like the one played by Miles Teller, eventually accepts something resembling responsibility. A story in which both of the aforementioned gentlemen insist on calling their Asian-American friend (Justin Chon) by his full name. “Jeff Chang!” they cry into the night, giving every bro-dude in the audience one more patronizing nickname to call any acquaintance of a similar ethnicity, as these two insist on getting our straight-A student sloshed in spite of his exceedingly strict father (François Chau) and an important interview looming the next morning.

Maybe Viewer X could relate deeply to Tourette’s-stricken protagonists on a night-long journey to salvage their awfully wasted compatriot, captured in a woozy digital haze worthy of their inebriated state by writer-directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore. Maybe he was actually something of a Lucas/Moore completist, eager to take in the latest from the scribes co-responsible for “The Change-Up,” “Four Christmases,” “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” and of course “The Hangover,” without the success of which this might not have seen an easy greenlight and eager comparisons. Maybe he wished that National Lampoon had taken the initiative to remake “The Warriors” and thus found himself satisfied by the humiliation that our frequently racist leads suffer at the hands of a vengeful Latina sorority while trapped behind enemy lines. (If only "The Warriors" had had more tampon-munching gags...)

Maybe he very much needed an outlet in which to sort out a deep-seated fondness for free-flowing bodily fluids that concurrently kept his ironic sensitivity over bodies actually touching one another in check. Maybe he was simply pressed for time and could only see one movie that condensed the familiarity of so many other party-hearty romps into 93 harried minutes. All the more sense, then, for Lucas and Moore to alternate every other objectively salacious scene with ostensibly sincere moments during which our leads contend with Jeff Chang’s increasingly apparent suicidal tendencies. The greater consideration of this gesture had to have outweighed any sense of tonal gear-grinding for this young, giddy moviegoer.

Maybe he was not yet of drinking age himself and relished the vicarious experience all the more for it. Maybe he had literally not seen more than a dozen movies before, no more than the dregs of these past two months, or suffered from some sort of amnesiac condition and felt such immediate joy at the sight of such raucous celebration that this surely had to be the peak of cinematic achievement, no bones about it. Or maybe, just maybe, that guy was an idiot, willing like so many others to repeatedly pay for the same old shenanigans and unable to recall doing so before -- even without having drunk so much as a drop. Yes, surely for them, the lucky few and probable many, “21 and Over” will be the Best Movie Ever.

For the rest of us, though, it’s something of a chore.

Grade: D

Movie & TV Awards 2018