No one’s more surprised than me by the glowing review I’m about to give this movie.
In many ways, 21 & Over is the latest in a long line of clichéd, unrealistic, annoying teen sex comedies, but with one very important difference: It’s actually really well written at the character level. The story is about three friends, who have gone their separate ways since high school. Miller (Miles Teller) and Casey (Skylar Astin; Pitch Perfect) have just gotten into town to celebrate their friend, Jeff Chang’s (Justin Chong) 21st birthday. Jeff Chang, who at his father’s (Francois Chau) insisting is working to become a doctor, has a big interview in the morning which can set him on the path to making his father happy, but his friends convince him to go out for a night of partying to celebrate his birthday.
Understandably, things go horribly wrong as Jeff Chang drinks to the point of blacking out and his friends have no idea how to get him home so he can get some sleep and be ready for his interview. There are other overly-familiar elements to this film (the binge drinking, the sorority presence, and Casey’s pathetic pursuit of a beautiful blonde (Sarah Wright; Parks and Recreation) to name a few), but overall the movie works pretty hard to make itself unique among the hoards of useless predecessors like Eurotrip and Sex Drive. For one, Sarah Wright’s character is great. She’s witty and confident, which makes her sexy in a more subtle and thorough way than the brainless bimbos that come standard in movies like this.
In addition, I loved the way Miller and Casey interact throughout. They have a very fun banter between them that clearly establishes their long history together, and it keeps their relationship interesting to watch throughout the entire film. Jeff Chang only regains consciousness long enough for an occasional joke, but it works really well to have Casey and Miller basically working with a human-sized prop throughout the entire film. Not to say the Jeff Chang character isn’t developed over the course of the film. As our heroes work to figure out where he lives, several of Jeff Chang’s darkest secrets are revealed and the duo start to see that Jeff Chang is maybe not as on top of things as he seems. This dynamic gives the film an unsuspected dramatic element that adds some variety to the tone rather than simply rapid firing joke after joke.
There’s an awful lot of male nudity in this one, and a stunning lack of female nudity given the genre, but I give the movie a lot of praise for these choices. Male nudity is funny, and it doesn’t ever feel gratuitous. On the other hand, there is only one topless woman, and it’s clearly a conscious choice to make that moment in the film as unsexy as possible, as the woman in question is running from an enraged buffalo. It’s an old fashioned idea that the sexiest things are left to the imagination, but 21 & Over tries to pay tribute to that notion by having Sarah Wright’s sex appeal come out through her characterization, and in a more obvious way, having two sorority sisters make out.
Special features include some behind the scenes featurettes and a gag reel. Available now on Blu-ray and DVD from 20th Century Fox.