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21 and Over' underwhelms

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Coming of age comedy unfocused, unfunny

Films that show us a group of young friends (usually male) making a big transition in life particularly the end of high school or college have always been popular in Hollywood. And with good reason; their primary target audience sits squarely in that age range. 

'21 and Over' is the latest offering in this particular coming of age subgenre. However, recent years have seen an increased tendency to turn these kids into oversexed, foul-mouthed punks with little to no redeeming value. There's no one to root for because everyone is terrible.

Yes, it probably sounds like I'm shaking my fist and demanding Hollywood get off my lawn, but the truth is that while some comedies have followed this formula and achieved classic status, it's safe to say that this movie won't be joining them. 

Miller (Miles Teller, 'Project X') and Casey (Skylar Astin, 'Pitch Perfect') are high school best friends coming to the end of their college careers. They have teamed up to surprise their third Musketeer Jeff Chang (Justin Chon, 'Detention of the Dead') for his 21st birthday.

Unfortunately, Jeff Chang (seriously, they literally always refer to him by both names) isn't in a partying mood. His father, the ever-glowering Dr. Chang (Francois Chau, TV's 'Lost'), has scheduled a medical school interview for Jeff Chang at 8 a.m. the next morning. However, that wouldn't make much of a movie, so Miller and Casey soon convince Jeff Chang to join them out on the town for a few drinks.

And then of course things quickly spiral out of control.

Before long, Jeff Chang is passed out drunk, leaving Miller and Casey to find a way to get him home. Of course, neither actually knows how to find their way back to Jeff's house. This leads to the standard spate of rapidly-escalating misadventures. Said misadventures include some inappropriate misbehavior in a sorority house, run-ins with the police and a few unpleasant encounters with the roided-up cheerleader Randy (Jonathan Keltz, 'Playback') - who just happens to be the boyfriend of Nicole (Sarah Wright, 'Touchback'), the girl that has caught Casey's eye.

Miller and Casey are in a race to get Jeff Chang home in time to get ready for his interview, but the two start to learn some things about their friend and about each other that turn this night of partying into something even more unexpected.

'21 and Over' is both written and directed by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore. The pair are best known for their screenwriting, having penned both installments of 'The Hangover' among other movies. This film marks the directorial debut for the pair and it shows. Not only is the story a bit disappointing rehashing a fair amount of their previous oeuvre but the direction is equally blah. There are some fun moments scattered throughout, but they aren't nearly enough to overcome the general predictability of the proceedings.

Really dynamic performances from the two major players might have saved the day, but Teller and Astin come up far short. Astin is likeable, but bland. There's very little spark to him; just an amiable prettiness that, while inoffensive, isn't particularly interesting. And Teller is doing his best to bust out something in the Apatow style, but mostly he comes off as coarse, crude and bordering on reprehensible. There's no reason for the audience to connect to him, making his journey such as it is kind of pointless. The highlight is Chon; he brings an engaging energy to the table that makes him a lot of fun to watch. Most of the film's best moments center on him; alas, he has far too little screen time to have any hope of elevating the experience.

Long story short, if you're outside the target demographic, you'll need a few drinks of your own to enjoy '21 and Over.'

1 out of 5

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