Screenwriters of “The Hangover,” Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, are back at it again with “21 and Over.”
Unfortunately, they’re also responsible for such gems as “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” and “Four Christmases,” which end up being better indicators for the quality of this film.
“21 and Over” is essentially a remake of “The Hangover” for the college-age audience: a responsible guy is coerced into a night of debauchery by his friends, only to have events predictably spiral out of control.
Jeff Chang (Justin Chong, who played the pining sap Eric Yorkie in the “Twilight” series) is a straight-A student who goes out with his old friends Casey (Skylar Astin, the delightful male lead in “Pitch Perfect”) and Miller (Miles Teller) for “just a beer” to celebrate his 21st birthday and reconnect.
Jeff has an interview for medical school the next morning, but the night quickly goes downhill as he gets drunker than expected.
One might think that after “The Hangover, Part II” — which, to be fair, Lucas and Moore did not write — was so harshly criticized for unoriginality, that filmmakers would shy away from making another film with the exact same premise.
But “The Hangover, Part II” did make over $580 million worldwide, and the lure of even a fraction of that money is always going to trump critical success in Hollywood.
“21 and Over” is also Lucas and Moore’s directorial debut, which is painfully clear from the awkward pacing and overuse of montages.
These failings are most commonly seen in action movies, where the director tries to fool the audience into thinking that the scene is a lot more exciting than it actually is. Yet the same thing happens in this film, as Lucas and Moore try to keep the super wild party scenes afloat.
But they also didn’t have much to work with; the script feels like a collection of skits or episodes, rather than a coherent whole.
This is a problem that also arose in “The Hangover,” but that movie director, Todd Phillips, had enough experience to overcome most of that and keep the film consistent.
It’s also unsurprising that most of the characters in the movie are eccentric stereotypes.
From the overachieving Asian-American student, to the lazy white college guy, to the sorority sisters — every character is one-dimensional and far from believable.
It’s just not possible to get invested in such trope characters, even during the few moments that the film attempts to foster emotional sincerity.
Ultimately, the only interesting part of “21 and Over” is its background story of being edited for release in China.
Apparently, Jeff is changed to a Chinese student that decides to transfer to an American college, where he is led astray by corrupt Westerners.
He then decides to return to his homeland, now a better (and more obedient, one might assume) person.
That’s a radical change from the buddy-story where Jeff learns to let go of his strict lifestyle — but again, China is a huge market, and no studio is going to give that up at the expense of artistic integrity.
The fact that a side-story is more interesting than the film itself is indicative of the quality of “21 and Over.”
The film’s premise isn’t inherently terrible, but after superior movies like “The Hangover” and “Superbad,” the plot feels tired and overused.
The movie is also simply not funny enough to make you ignore its lack of creativity — every joke feels like something recycled from funnier comedies.
If you have $10 to spare and want a film that won’t make you think too much, “21 and Over” isn’t a terrible choice.
But this type of movie has been done before … and done better.