There is something to be said for the comfort one takes in walking into a movie that is sure to be bad. The viewer is under no false illusion that what they are about to watch will be life changing, something that will make them feel better about the world around them. No, if you buy a ticket for something that advertises itself as siblings fighting steampunk monsters in 3D, you don’t expect The Artist.
Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why I hated 21 and Over so much. Surely the ads didn’t hide the fact that this was a low budget “kids getting drunk and naked” flick, with its only calling card being “from the guys that wrote The Hangover.” That being said, it has been years since I have felt this much anger toward a film for treating its audience as drooling numbskulls, with arrest worthy crimes being treated as sophomoric hi-jinks for our half-hearted chuckles.
I’m getting ahead of myself, though. Let’s take a look at the plot, since that is oh so important in flicks like this.
Miller, Casey, and Jeff, three young men who were best friends in high school, find themselves holding a mini reunion on the occasion of Jeff’s 21st birthday. Miller is our ne’er do well, the Bradley Cooper of our great of college-aged Hangover-esque miscreants. Casey is the straight-laced one in the group; the young man who seems to have everything together, with his only complaint being that he is staring at a career in finance that will bring wealth, but bore him to tears. Jeff has an interview for entry into medical school early the next morning, set up by his overbearing father, so he has the most to lose by going out and going wild. So of course that’s what he does.
It wasn’t five minutes into the film that I realized that this would be a painful experience. Miller (played by Miles Teller) is the first character that we are introduced to, a bro that is ecstatic to cut loose with his buds for the night. Cracking open a tall-boy PBR in the back of a cab, it’s clear the actor was going for a young Vince Vaughn vibe, but all that was coming through the screen was a character modeled after Max Tucker. Casey (performed by Skylar Astin, last seen in Pitch Perfect) is the straight man, the Ed Helms of the group if you will; milquetoast, seemingly only there for Miller to bounce Jew jokes off of every five minutes. The taxi driver is the only character in the film to show that he has a grasp on reality by calling the two men “assholes” before dropping them off.
That leaves us with the character of Jeff, or more to the point, Jeff Chang. Think about your group of friends growing up. I’m sure you had a couple that, by coincidence, had the same first name. To be sure everyone knew two Michaels growing up, right? When talking to them, how did you differentiate between the two? Maybe one was Michael, the other Mike, right? Well, in the world of 21 and Over, the only way to talk to or about a close friend is to tack on that last name, whether there is another Jeff within 30 miles.
Within minutes of the introduction of Jeff Change, you realize that the only reason the character is Asian has to do with the writers’ finding Asians inherently funny. Think about it…Asians are the only race that Hollywood writers feel safe in making jokes about now. Remember, the guys responsible for this film are the same ones that stuck Ken Jeong in the trunk of a car naked in The Hangover. Seriously, if you want to hear characters referred to unironically as yellow bastards or treated as walking caricatures, this is the movie for you!
Actually, the only filmgoers I could recommend this film to would be folks that think The Hangover would have been better without Zach Galifianakis’ character, or those that think Superbad would be great if the two main characters openly hated each other throughout the movie’s runtime. The trio of leads has such low levels of chemistry with each other, I believe it dipped into the negatives at times.
The issue that really bothered me the most during this nothing of a movie, however, is the fact that there are countless crimes committed that would lead to arrests, if not serious jail time, if this film had even the smallest amount of consciousness to it. Among the crimes committed: multiple sexual assaults (on both male and females), kidnapping, physical assault, battery, and the threat of gun violence on a student. None of the scenes featuring these charges were funny, but then again, it’s only a comedy and maybe I’m expecting too much.
When members of the press enter a screening, we are given little surveys to fill out, only asking for favorite scenes and our general thoughts on the film. For the first time, I had to fill out the Favorite Scenes section with a big ol’ “N/A”, because I couldn’t even fake a scene that may have gotten a smile out of me. If any of the preceding sounds interesting to you, may God have mercy on your soul.