21 And Over

In Films by Ben Winkley

Nothing says Summer’s coming better than a film about American college kids getting drunk and laid so 21 And Over is as much a sign of the changing seasons as the appearance of white flesh through ill-advised outerwear.

Tapping the spirit, if not the quality, of the genre’s Lord and Creator, John Landis‘s raucous 1978 Animal House, 21 And Over is a laugh-light, coming-of-age comedy based in that most singularly American environment; the college campus.

Miller (Miles Teller) and Casey (Skylar Astin) travel to Stanford to ensure their buddy Jeff Chang (Justin Chon) has a 21st to remember. Jeff is wary, seeing as how he’s got his big medical school interview in the morning but naturally relents.

The three amigos set off into a night of brewskis, shots and cheesy chat-ups as Jeff shrugs off both the impending interview and the threat of getting a whuppin’ from his overbearing father (Francois Chau). Needless to say the night gets progressively more debauched, and a little bit weird, as the truth about just how Jeff’s getting on is revealed.

The three main characters – carefree Miller, square Casey and Sino-American stereotype Jeff – convince as lifelong buddies but they travel through a familiar parade of uptight sorority and carefree frat houses as they try to get Jeff home in time for his big day (and here’s a thing – if all sorority houses are full of strident, man-hating feminists, as they all are in every college film, where do all the easy girls at the frat parties come from?).

Anyway, the issue of what’s up with Jeff gets quickly forgotten – if there’s a lesson to be learnt here it’s that all your problems can be worked through by booze and girls with nice teeth.

But it takes skill to create a funny, involving comedy from material like this. Landis knew the characters have to be parodies, otherwise they’re just rich kids drinking too much and there’s nothing funny about that.

21 And Over’s directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore don’t get this, which is why this isn’t as funny as Twitter would have you believe (the verdict there is ‘LOLZ best film EVAH’). Lucas and Moore don’t seem confident that even this audience is smart enough to laugh unless the gags are signposted well in advance. Eventually they resort to nudity and the inevitable gross out moment when a teddy bear gets super-glued to Jeff’s Johnson.

So lock 21 And Over away in the box marked Failed Frat Films along with Van WilderDorm Daze and every other attempt made to match the magic of Animal House. Next year there’ll be a fresh crop along.