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MANILA, Philippines - Wasted is the operative word behind the comedic “21 & Over.”
It is both the 21st birthday of one Jeff Chang (played by Justin Chon, whom teens and tweens had seen in the “Twilight” movies) and the eve of his crucial, med school-qualifying interview. His high-school pals Miller and Casey crash Chang’s pad and, despite the next morning’s agenda, compel him to celebrate with a night of bottomless boozing and bar-hopping. (Miles Teller, who looks like John Cusack’s yearbook photo, and the Zachary Levi-resembling Skylar Astin play Miller and Casey, respectively.)
An indulgent Chang inevitably gets wasted and the rest of the movie is spent largely on trying to bring him home despite nocturnal and college-life obstacles along the way.
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Overall, “21 & Over” is competently executed. The cinematography by Terry Stacey, for one thing, is far from juvenile, and the performances are okay — especially that of the ever-game Chon, who manages to stay appealing despite Chang’s embarrassing moments, and the brief appearances of actor Francois Chau, a profane yet stern presence who’s best remembered as the enigmatic talking head on TV’s “Lost.”
As newbie directors, Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, who had scripted the first installment of “The Hangover,” orchestrate the proceedings ably enough, unleashing sight gags that aim to out-over-the-top one another. Such stunts include projectile puking aboard a mechanical bull, projectile peeing on top of a bar counter, same-sex smooching, munching on a tampon, “drunk driving” but with the drunk asleep on the dashboard, two dudes walking around wearing nothing but a tube sock each, another dude wearing just a bra and a teddy bear, the icky removal of said bear — all in the spirit of echoing memories of older audiences’ own (or younger audiences’ planned) wild, collegiate binges.
That said, “21 & Over’s” being wasted extends beyond its primary premise.
For one thing, as scripted by Lucas and Moore, it is frequently reminiscent of “The Hangover.”
It is a buddy movie slash hedonistic adventure anew, though with college kids instead of marriageable bachelors. There’s a silly Asian character — his non-white lineage underscored with racist glee by being constantly called by his full name — though not necessarily as chuckling-annoying as Ken Leong is in the “Hangover” series.
There’s also a live-animal extra, this time not a terrifying tiger or a smoking monkey but a head-butting buffalo. And there’s likewise a truckload of profanity (Astin pulls off one particularly hilarious zinger) and considerable raunchiness — though not exactly in the sex-crazed vein of, say, the 1980s’ “Porky’s” flicks.
Throughout the movie’s second act, with a passed-out Chang lugged around by Miller and Casey, “21 & Over” all too easily recalls another ’80s memento, “Weekend at Bernie’s” — though “Bernie’s,” with its the-guy-is-actually-dead premise, is arguably more horrible. (Miller and Casey, for their part, are essentially a Caucasian Harold and Kumar.)
By the time this whole 93-minute charade concludes, you just might end up wondering what possessed you to sit through it.
Sure, there are some moments devoted to introspection: about life being too short for anyone to be square, of adulthood supposedly being synonymous to dismissing stringent parents, and that rigidness is just as dangerous as recklessness. Yet these come off more as token diversions, as if to redeem “21 & Over” from its multitude of wanton urges.
Whether scriptwriter-directors Lucas and Moore lacked the imagination to make a truly out-there, ingenious comedy of juvenile horrors, or were forced to play safe by the moneybags who greenlit this reportedly 13-million-dollar movie, it’s a shame that all its production moolah resulted in too-familiar, generally lackluster entertainment.
Surely there are other scripters and helmers out there who can come up with something more above-average than “21 & Over,” and struggling filmmakers who’d bother to check this out might lament that they could have done wonders with its 8-digit budget.
Consequently, “21 & Over’s” viewers’ own ticket-scoring dough would likewise end up wasted ― unless dating theatergoers’ real aim is not to stare at the screen, if you get my ages-21-and-up drift. - Rappler.com
(’21 & Over’, which has been rated R-16 sans cuts by the MTRCB, is showing in Philippine cinemas.)
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