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The Independent Critic

Miles Teller, Skylar Astin, Justin Chon, Sarah Wright, Jonathan Keltz
Jon Lucas, Scott Moore
Rated R
93 Mins.
Relativity Media
Featurettes, gag reel

 I Don't Remember Turning 21 Being Like This... 
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Even without being familiar with the names Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, you'd likely have a mighty fine educated guess within a few moments of watching 21 and Over, their new film for which they share writing and directing credits. The two were the writers for the first two Hangover films and virtually every single one of 21 and Over's 93 Minutes will remind you of The Hangover intertwined with the freestyle nature of the Harold & Kumar films.

The film centers around Jeff Chang (Justin Chon), whose big interview for entrance into medical school just happens to be the morning after his 21st birthday. When his two best friends, Casey (Skylar Astin) and Miller (Miles Teller), unexpectedly show up on campus to help him celebrate the stage is set for a night that will look an awful lot familiar but will still be surprisingly fun.

There's nothing particularly fresh or original about 21 and Over, and there's not an ounce of logic to be found anywhere in the film. The film is more relentlessly naughty than The Hangover films, most likely having to do with its relatively modest production budget and the fact that we're talking about 21-year-olds on a college campus.

There's a couple of key reasons that 21 and Over works far more than it should. First off, Justin Chon is over-the-top hilarious as Jeff Chang, whose name you can't possibly forget because it becomes one of the film's not so funny running jokes. While the name itself isn't particularly funny, Chon manages to turn even the subtle moments of his drunken stupor into quite a few laugh out loud funny moments.

Then, there's the film's real stand-out - Miles Teller. Teller, whom most will recognize either from Project X or as Willard from the Footloose remake, is quite good and substantial as Miller, a young man with a few of his own secrets underneath all the debauchery and heavy drinking. While a good majority of the film is played for laughs, there's a real life quandary in the friendship between Casey and Miller. The two are friends whose connection seems genuine yet frayed as their lives begin to go their own separate ways. It's that dilemma that every young college graduate goes through as you begin to realize that that many of the friends you've grown up with may not be your friends for life.

While Teller pulls off that substance beautifully, occasionally lending the film enough of an emotional resonance that you actually kind of care about these guys, Skylar Astin is less successful in the kind of role that Justin Long has become known for over recent years. Astin's Casey is the "responsible" one of the bunch, a nerd with a wild streak whose voice of reason is all too often swayed by his impulsive tendencies.

The thrust of the film involves the three going out for a drink with at least a little bit of an intention to really get Jeff Chang back to his place before his ultra-controlling father (Francois Chau) arrives to take him to his interview. Of course, nothing goes as planned and soon Chang is trashed and the two guys are unable to remember where he lives. The entire night becomes an effort to find Chang's home and get him to his interview. Along the way, Casey will take a shine to Nicole (Sarah Wright) whose boyfriend (Jonathan Keltz) has a few anger control issues and quickly has reason to swear revenge on the trio. From bars to a Dante-influenced campus party to a pep rally to a mental health clinic, 21 and Over tends to go everywhere that The Hangover tended to pull back from before it got there.

If you're opposed to seeing lots of backsides, then you probably don't want to see 21 and Over, which also opens with a not so subtle jaunt by Casey and Miller on to campus wearing nothing but tube socks.

21 and Over is absurd, silly, over-the-top, ridiculous, unbelievable, outrageous and frequently funny even if you're sitting there thinking "This is all way too familiar." You'll also be saying to yourself "Did they really do that?"

The answer will be "Yes."

If you're in the mood for a lowbrow comedy this weekend with an absolutely relentless devotion to naughtiness manifested by seemingly nice guys, 21 and Over will be the kind of flick that gives you a fun 90-minutes that you'll instantly forget once you've gone back outside.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic