Starring: Miles Teller, Jonathan Keltz, Justin Chon
Director: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore
Running Time: 93 mins
21 & Over is an American film about three friends who hit the town for a wild night on the 21st birthday of one of their number, but must make sure to be back and ready in time for his big med school interview the next morning.
A typical late-night comedy through and through, 21 & Over has all the endless juvenile energy of genre favourites like Superbad, This Is The End, 21 Jump Street and more. It’s far from an intelligent, original film, and often grows a little tiresome with its seemingly boundless scope for childish antics, as well as a rather repetitive story throughout, but with fast pacing, jokes wherever you look and great, youthful energy throughout, it proves a surprisingly enjoyable watch regardless.
Of course, the place to start off with any film like this is the comedy, and whether it actually makes you laugh. 21 & Over, for the most part, is a surprisingly funny film, simply because it leaves a little bit of time and attention aside from simple, juvenile chaos to write a few punchy one-liners, unpredictable twists and bizarre mishaps.
The bulk of the humour does come from the unhinged, moronic situations the three find themselves in, and that grows a little tiring rather quickly, but it’s fortunately interspersed with gags throughout that have a little more depth and originality to them, whether that be a strange, unexplained running gag that ties up brilliantly in the end, or some good back and forth between characters at times.
The film is never gut-bustingly funny, and the fact that I wasn’t laughing at the majority of its more chaotic, juvenile humour is perhaps indicative of the fact that it’s not much of a success in getting you to laugh as much as it wants. However, for such a manic late-night comedy to still prove enjoyable in the end, and have made me chuckle a good few times throughout, is no mean feat, and is proof that, if you want a little bit of unhinged, childish fun, then 21 & Over delivers it rather well.
The same can’t entirely be said for its story, which starts strongly, but fails to keep up the same ingenuity and excitement all the way through. On the plus side, the impending peril of the big med school interview the next morning gives a sense of purpose and excitement to the guys’ antics throughout, but on the flipside, the movie goes to almost unbelievable lengths to show just how mad a crazy night out can get.
Of course, all-night thrillers are nothing new, and films like After Hours, Stretch and Good Time make an entertaining and exciting watch out of following characters through an evening that just gets worse and worse. However, all of those films bring a darker, stranger, almost dreamlike quality to that premise, meaning the seemingly endless series of events feels a little more appropriate as you feel their exhaustion and loss of clear-mindedness.
21 & Over, however, just follows its characters on a seemingly endless night of partying for little other reason than thinking it’s cool. There isn’t the same sense of a descent into madness, and as much as they drink and party harder than ever before, there never seems to be much change or development in the characters’ states of mind. One guy gets completely wasted early on, and stays that way, while the other two remain almost unfathomably level-headed.
In that, the performances don’t really do enough to show the intensity and sheer mania of this endless night out, but then again, it’s the energy and charisma of the lead turns that also help to make the movie such an enjoyable watch at times. Miles Teller and Jonathan Keltz are great together, with entertaining chemistry and an energetic back and forth that stays the course the whole way through. They might not bring much depth or unique intrigue to their characters, but in terms of showing you a good time, they do a great job.
Of everyone, though, the standout performance comes from Justin Chon, who plays the guy preparing for the interview of his lifetime, only to go out and get entirely wasted the night before. It’s juvenile and frankly very silly, but Chon goes all out with a babyish, blatantly moronic performance that actually provides some of the biggest laughs of the whole movie. That does in turn damage some of the more serious drama the film tries to bring about through his character, but as a part of the general, anarchic sense of fun and partying, Chon is great to watch throughout.
Overall, I didn’t have all that bad a time with 21 & Over. It’s juvenile, it’s predictable, it’s silly and it’s frankly very repetitive, but it did make me a laugh a lot more than I expected. There are energetic performances and an all-out sense of letting loose throughout, and although that does hurt some of the film’s other ambitions, it all helps to make a thoroughly enjoyable, albeit undeniably moronic watch, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.2.