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21 & Over (2013)

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 6/18/2013

All Ratings out of
Audio: 1/2
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 6/21/2013

Ah, the raunchy teenage sex romp. Are those still around? For over forty years, these movies have gone in and out of vogue, and many of them have fallen flat. Producers like these movies because they can typically be made quickly and cheaply. However, very few of those involved have learned that you can be as risque and crazy as you want, but unless there's some sort of basic character development and actual heart to the movie, the audience simply won't care. The makers of 21 & Over seems to understand this idea, so the question is, why couldn't they capture it on screen?

21 & Over opens with Casey (Skylar Astin) and Miller (Miles Teller) arriving at a college campus to surprise their high school buddy Jeff Chang (Justin Chon) (They refer to him as "Jeff Chang", pronounced as if it's one word, throughout the film.) Jeff has just turned 21 and Casey and Miller intend to take him out for the night. However, Jeff has his medical school interview the next morning and is reluctant to go. Of course, the guys convince Jeff to go out, despite the fact that Jeff's tyrannical father, Dr. Chang (Francois Chau) is in town. Casey, Miller, and Jeff hit the bars (especially the ones which had denied Jeff entry in the past) and Jeff gets very drunk. When their bar crawl subsides, Casey and Miles decide to take Jeff home. There's only one problem, they have no idea how to get back to his house. Their journey to have Jeff home in time for his interview will meet with many obstacles.

21 & Over marks the directorial debut of Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, the screenwriters of The Hangover. It's interesting that for their first times behind the camera, they would write and direct a movie so similar to The Hangover. Replace Las Vegas with a college campus and you've got a very familiar story as a group of well-meaning friends end up intoxicated and are then forced to face many odd situations in order to help a friend. This is simple mathematics, right? You simply switch out these younger actors for the ones seen in The Hangover and you've got a version of the same movie which simply skews younger, right?

Wrong. The Hangover is not perfect, but it looks like the best wild comedy ever made compared to this turkey. Where do I begin? First of all, there are a lot of problems with the characters. Miller is one of those incredibly annoying jerks which you see in movies and think, "No one would be his friend or put up with that kind of behavior in real life." We've seen plenty of characters like this in movies before, and they usually turn a corner and become likable at some point, but not Miller, as he's an *&%hole for the entire movie. Casey, on the other hand, is too nice. Fresh off of his breakthrough performance in Pitch Perfect, Skylar Astin plays Casey as an all-around nice guy, but he actually comes off as too vanilla. Jeff Chang becomes intoxicated so quickly that we barely get to know him. Everyone which they meet in the film is a stereotype of some sort.

The real problem lies in the story. As noted above, what we are seeing here is not very original, but that's not the key issue. The real dilemma is that the script can never find the right tone. From the outset, the movie is littered with profanity and it clearly wants to set a tone that this is going to be a no-holds-barred R-rated movie. However, while there is a lot of grating dialogue, things never get too bawdy beyond that. Things get odd in the second half of the movie. Miller and Casey haven't seen Jeff in a while, and as the night progresses, they learn more and more about his life at college. This aspect of the film gets quite serious and doesn't gel at all with the rest of the movie. Yes, it's possible for a foul-mouthed comedy to actually have emotion (see Forgetting Sarah Marshall for some examples), but Lucas and Moore don't seem to have any idea what to do with these ideas. The sad thing is that 21 & Over could have actually been a refreshing movie if it had decided to tone down the sophomoric hijinks and gradually introduce the fact that things aren't always what they seem in a more balanced manner.

The bottom line with a movie like 21 & Over is that we want it to be funny and this one simply isn't. I laughed out loud once and smiled at a few things, but that was it. Otherwise, it was an exercise in watching unlikable characters doing ridiculous things. In addition to these issues, the repetitive nature of the movie makes it feel much, much longer than its 93-minute running time. If you're looking for a madcap comedy which ends in the word "over", stick with The Hangover.

21 & Over doesn't get enough mileage out of its buffalo on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 35 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no distracting grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The depth is adequate, and the level of detail is good for the most part, although a few shots looked somewhat soft. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.3 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo and surround effects really show off their power during the party scenes. We get sound from all sides and some of it is quite detailed. The sound shows good separation and things move nicely from side-to-side and from front-to-back. The subwoofer really kicks in with the party music.

The 21 & Over Blu-ray Disc contains only a smattering of extras. "Levels of Intoxication" (4 minutes) has the actors and the filmmakers discussing how drunk the characters get in the film and how the actors portrayed those moments of inebriation. "Tower of Power" (3 minutes) gives an overview of the "Tower of Power" sequence of the film...which we just watched. This is just a series of clips accompanied by vague comments from the actors. The final extras are a 2-minute GAG REEL and a THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film.

Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.