The Monocle – “21 & Over”

Directed by: Jon Lucas & Scott Moore
Written by: Jon Lucas & Scott Moore
Released: March 1st, 2013
Theatre watched at: AMC Burbank, Burbank

There’s nothing like the high, childish shrieking and giggling of a tiny, naked and hammered Chinese man with an innocent teddy bear glued to his private parts running around a college campus–I think we’ve found our battle cry for the socially deprived Asian, fellas.  The writers of the The Hangover (2009) are back and have additionally taken up the directors’ chairs this time around for their comedy 21 & Over.  The film follows studious med student Jeff Chang (Justin Chon), who gets visited by his best friends Casey and Miller (Skylar Astin and Miles Teller respectively) on the day of his 21st birthday and have plans to celebrate the traditional way by taking him on a wild night of drinking and mischief. Despite Jeff’s medical school interview the following morning, he agrees to go out under the condition they just have a few beers at a bar and call it a night. Yeah, right…dozens of bars and gallons of alcohol later, Jeff blacks-out and Casey and Miller have no clue where Jeff lives; what follows is a night for the history books.

Despite not being as narratively efficient or even as funny, 21 & Over takes the Hangover formula, waters it down, and then injects it with a fresh and timely spin that upholds the wit, inventiveness, and even a little more of the heart than even The Hangover Part II was able to muster. This film had me LOOMS-ing! (That stands for laughing-out-of-my-seat; I haven’t copyrighted that term yet so feel free to use it for now if you can’t resist) The three leads have a surprising chemistry that doesn’t feel too forced, and I especially appreciate the fact the actors do not seem pushed to exaggerate the roles of their characters to the point where it becomes artificially obvious–we understand that Casey is the smart and responsible one while Miller is the intellectually lazy and self-absorbed party animal, but they manage to keep these traits on a more believable and relatable plane. Although Jeff Chang is KO’ed nearly 75% of the film, much of what makes the silliness work is that Casey and Miller are forced to lug him around, and how they choose to deal with his body during their situations is just priceless at times.

The dialogue spoken that isn’t being used to set up a punch-line is derivative and nothing special, but I do commend the writers for attempting to slip in a whole brotherhood-ly side theme with the main narrative. As these three friends go around, they are constantly revealing new information to each other about the changes that have taken place in their lives since they’ve split up. Now, the writers didn’t take a comical advantage during these moments, and so the dialogue is inevitably there to set up a happy ending and nothing more, but again, it’s a heart-warming thing comedies like this don’t tend to give much attention to, but I can always appreciate the gesture of allowing a tender moment to be tender.

Quite frankly on all accounts the film is silly and stupid, and is by no means a classic. However, it can hit home for those who are, no pun intended, 21 and over, especially those who understand college culture. When the pens are down and the books are shut, college is a freaking silly and stupid ass place to be around, trust me, I’ve seen my fair share of crazy sh*t, and so while others may see the humor as tasteless (the more racially stereotypes jokes), I see them as accurate portrayals of the sort of blabber mouthing students do to simply be connected with their surroundings. Stereotyping is a thing people, get over it, and it can be funny.

Bow Tie Score - 3.5