21 and Over feels like the much younger sibling to someone we know. That's probably because it is the directorial debut of the writers of The Hangover. And like in that smash hit, our central characters get utterly wasted and some serious problems ensue.
As shown in the 21 and Over trailer, it is Jeff Chang's twenty-first birthday and two of his longtime friends arrive at his idyllic Northern California university to take him out on the town. No more getting shot down by bouncers for Chang! The only problem is Jeff has a medical school interview first thing in the morning. It was set up by his overbearing and demanding father and there is no way he can miss it, or suffer the wrath of the man in the world that he most fears.
His buddies don't see it that way and convince him to go out because "one beer can't hurt." Instead of having to find their friend (a la The Hangover), these guys have to take their unconscious birthday celebrant home. Only, they don't know where he lives. This is the quest element that was firmly first introduced in the work of Scott Moore and Jon Lucas in their smash hit starring Bradley Cooper with those great The Hangover quotes.
The issue we have with 21 and Over is not that it lacks originality or humor... there are elements of both. The problem comes from how the movie feels like a series of comedic "bits" strung together by a loose plot. There's even a love interest for one of our revelers that feels as if it were a convenient way to have something uniform that holds the movie together.
Miles Teller and Skylar Astin are the out of town friends while Justin Chon is the birthday boy. Each actor does their best with what they are given. But, with so much of it feeling so contrived -- such as Teller and Astin's falling out and then reuniting -- it is hard to truly develop any kind of kinship with these characters.
21 and Over begins with an outrageous shot of Teller and Astin walking through an enormous university quad with nothing but a sock on their you-know-whats. The viewer learns that is where we are headed as the film quickly jerks back 24 hours prior. It's an often used device and in this case misses the mark, as half the mystery of a party-crazy film is not knowing where our scoundrels are heading.
Our 21 and Over review can report that if stand-alone laughs are enough for you and story build-up secondary, then this film works. There are several hilarious scenes that will certainly produce laugh-out-loud moments. But, beyond that... 21 and Over just feels like a hangover.