’21 & Over’: a BETTER ‘Hangover’.

11 May

21 & Over posterSorry I’ve been away for so long, folks! Essays, assignments and exams have just been eating up my time. They’re very, very hungry.

Did you like The Hangover? Well, 21 & Over might be the film for you! It’s virtually the same plot: a pair of early twenty-somethings wake up, dazed and confused, to find themselves naked, branded and suffering from mild amnesia. The film follows the crazy events of the previous alcohol-fuelled night, as leads Miller (Miles Teller) and Casey (Skylar Astin), convinced their best friend Jeff Chang (Justin Chon) to engage in a few hours of debauchery, ignoring the fact that he has a life-changing medical school exam the following morning. Will he make it, or will the stampeding buffalo, naughty sorority girls or inevitable alcohol poisoning get the better of him?

Though it was written and directed by the writers of The Hangover, where 21 & Over differs is not in its subject matter, not in its presentation or even in its humour: it’s at where the humour is aimed. 21 & Over is very equal-opportunity in who it makes fun of – no group of people are safe, and even the name-callers and joke-crackers themselves get their comeuppance in the end. This is the sort of film where a legion of Hispanic supermodels are tricked into paddling and making out with one another by the leads, but who avoid the descent into misogynistic plot-conviences by exacting their eventual revenge.

Casey and Miller have a great comradery together; Casey is the straight-faced, neurotic guy who’s anxious about the whole affair, whereas Miller is the dumb, wise-cracking waster who revels in his unemployability. Both turn out to be much more layered, multi-faceted characters than anyone from The Hangover, while Jeff Chang’s secrets gradually unravel to reveal a deceptively complex persona. His stereotypically overbearing dad (who is that ‘High Expectations Asian Father’ meme personified) is hilarious, and proves to be a lead protagonist, alongside the brainless athletes and enraged Latino sirens.

One of these men ends up with a stuffed bear glued to his penis. Can you guess which one?

One of these men ends up with a stuffed bear glued to his penis. Can you guess which one?

Shot on-campus at the University of Washington, there are lots of beautiful natural scenes and impressive architecture for viewers to gaze at, before hurling some ‘dumb jock’ humour our way. The montage of their getting wasted is superbly shot from a technical point of view – nice camera angles abound as time is slowed down. Is it weird that one of the best sequences comes from Jeff Chang’s projectile vomit, hurtling in slow motion as it does across the room and landing in people’s faces and/or drinks?

All that said, 21 & Over is nothing special. Of course, since it’s Hollywood, the characters are forced to have this predictable revelation as they come to terms with their fledgling adulthood. This very jarring tonal shift comes out of nowhere and really grates with the happy-go-lucky, carefree nature of everything that’s come before.

This is my only criticism, mind. If you enjoyed The Hangover then, in theory, this should be your cup of tequila. On the other hand, if you’re among the five people who just found Cooper and co.’s alcoholic antics lacking, then 21 & Over could be your answer. Brainless, harmless fun.

Simon says: 21 and Alright Like.

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