You’d be forgiven if you thought 21 & Over looked a bit like The Hangover: College Edition. It is after all the vibe marketing is going for. Written by the same people as The Hangover and focusing on the ridiculous exploits of three college kids over the course of a single night, it has all the pieces in place to be exactly what it wants to be. All the pieces except the constant hilarity that The Hangover actually had.
The premise of 21 and Over is pretty simplistic. Miller (Miles Teller) and Casey (Skylar Astin) visit their buddy Jeff Chang (Justin Chon), on his 21st birthday. Jeff Chang has a very important med school interview the next morning and despite his father’s advice to get to be early and be rested, he joins his pals at the local campus bar. One bar leads to another and eventually Miller and Casey find themselves saddled with a passed out Jeff Chang, on a college campus they don’t know. Getting him home safely, and in time for his interview, is their new quest.
Misadventure assaults the two friends as they try to figure out Jeff Chang’s address. All the while misfired comedy assaults the audience. Don’t get me wrong, 21 and Over has some genuinely funny moments but they speckle, instead of smother, the overall film.
The problem is, we’ve seen this all before. We’ve seen it in films like Harold and Kumar go to White Castle, The Hangover, its sequel and last year’s Project X. All have tread these waters already and most of 21 & Over feels tired because of it. The old jokes just are not funny because they are just old jokes, there is no new spin to them at all.
What 21 & Over does have going for it though is heart. As the film progresses, 21 & Over explores the friendship of Miller, Casey and Jeff Chang. We see that these friends maybe aren’t the friends they thought they were and while I never really care for any of the characters individually, I did care about their friendship and that makes it worth watching. That and when they drop Jeff Chang off a roof… twice.