21 & Over is the directorial debut from The Hangover writers, Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, and they make surprisingly little effort to distance their new film from the 2009 super-hit. The film starts with our two heroes, Miller and Casey (Miles Teller and Skylar Astin), strolling through a collage campus at dawn, butt-naked save a couple of Red Hot Chilli Peppers-esque cock socks, their buttocks bruised and branded. We are then told, in flashback, of the events of the wild night that lead to this humiliating point, and how their friendship has been tested and they've learned to become better people. Sound familiar?
Instead of a bachelor party, the reason for the festivities in 21 & Over is the birthday of the pair's old high school friend, Jeff Chang (Justin Chong), a straight-A's Chinese-American medical student with high expectations and an over-bearing father (Lost's Françoise Chau). Unfortunately for JeffChang [sic], his 21st birthday is also the eve of a career-defining job interview, and what was supposed to be a quick drink in the local bar soon escalates into a night-long odyssey of boozing, vomiting, and every other kind of debauchery associated with the mythologised view of the American tertiary education system. When Jeff Chang eventually passes out, Miller and Casey must find away to get him home in time for his interview without alerting his stern father to their antics.
The plot is familiar, and the writer's intentions are clear: produce a Hangover/Super Bad hybrid with a pinch of Animal House thrown in for good measure. The overriding problem with this, despite its obvious lack of imagination, is that while Astin is a serviceable straight-man, Teller has nothing like the magnetism or charm of Galifianakis, Hill or Belushi. Whilst some of the 'gross-out humour' delivers more than the intolerably tepid The Change Up, jokes are sacrificed in place of heavily choreographed vomiting set-pieces and formulaic, frat house shenanigans. The unsettling undercurrent of casual racism from The Hangover films is also present, but it will be more likely to induce pity towards the writers than outrage. Lucas and Moore are desperately trying to be outrageous, but the only offensive thing about 21 & Over is that it is boring, unoriginal and simply not very funny.
A thinly-veiled Hangover rehash with fewer jokes and fewer interesting characters, 21 & Over aims for outrageous campus comedy, but finds itself enrolled in the remedial class.
21 & Over is released in the UK 29 March.