21 & Over Review
Sometimes a movie appeals to you simply due to timing.
I can't believe that its almost been an entire year since I graduated college. Even though I personally had to tag on an extra semester to finish my undergrad, that four and a half year period flew. It went by faster than I could have ever imagined. Sometimes I can't believe its gone and when I get together with my old college buddies, they can't believe it either. It was a fun time, a much needed time, but I can't help but reminisce sometimes.
"21 & Over" was the perfect film to help me remember my good times at college. It tells the simple story of three friends from high school who went to different colleges. two of them go on a surprise visit to the other on his 21st birthday. However, the birthday boy has an important job interview in the morning, one that his parents will very much disapprove of if he were to miss it. His two friends convince him to go out anyway, and they drink until the birthday boy passes out. The rest of the movie is dedicated to trying to bring birthday boy home before his big interview in the morning, even though they can't remember where he lives!
This seems like a style of film we have seen before, and it pretty much is. But somehow. "21 & Over" makes the whole thing seem very fresh. I think that freshness comes from including the usual cliches of this type of film, but doing something completely different with them. The story is also brought to life by three great actors. We have to believe in these guys and their friendship if can even begin to enjoy this film. It seems like Miles Teller, Justin Chon and Skyler Astin thought so too, because they carry this film with ease. Miles Teller plays Miller, the "leader" of this group that is the one constantly egging on the other two. We have seen characters like this in other movies, heck we all know people like this in our lives. Teller is not about making him a cliche though, he gives the character unsuspected heart. I have had an eye out for Skyler Astin since "Pitch Perfect" and I think he will rise to be a great actor of his generation. He plays Casey, the sentimental friend who wants the birthday boy do well in life, he knows some of the situations of the movie are a bad idea and tries for other alternatives. He's also the character that gets a sweet little love story throughout the movie.
Then there is the birthday boy. Justin Chon plays Jeff Chang. Chon is a real breakout in this movie. I have seen work by Astin and Teller before and I was expecting them to do great. I have never seen anything by Chon before. I really liked him in this. Sadly, since he is the birthday boy, his character gets the shortchange in a lot of the movie. But when it is time for Chon to step up to the camera, he delivers. You really can't fault a guy for that.
What also makes "21 & Over" work is just how different it really is. Yes, it features cliches but it doesn't embrace those cliches. Yes, I mentioned a sweet love story, but it never over-blows the rest of the film and it is written well. The movie has gross-out humor but it is never disgusting. The movie has a nice message hidden under all of the comedy, but that message doesn't smack you over the head, just to make sure you're paying attention. "21 & Over" has just the right dose of everything it needs, and it never overstays its welcome. Which is another plus.
I don't think we will ever run out of "college comedies" or "party mysteries" in the vine of "The Hangover." But if future movies follow the same template as "21 & Over," I think the genre as a whole will do just fine.
FINAL GRADE: B