Every year teenage boys across the world make a pilgrimage to the cinema in search of laughs, language and ladyparts. 21 & Over is the offering the teenage boys of 2013 seek, but do they find what they desire?
For the most part 21 & Over is glued to the rulebook. Introduce our characters with a foul-mouthed tirade that makes them seem cool? Check. Show quick flashes of female nudity? Check. Have the entire film cover a day and night? Check. End the film with a heart-warming message about friendship? Check.
But that is for the most part, when 21 & Over breaks the rules and tries some new things they get very close to creating something real. Lying underneath the comedy is some very dark undertones. Suicide, mental illness and improper use of safe narcotics are all touched on as the film careens to its finale. It does it all seriously as well, not making a joke of these very serious issues. It is here that 21 & Over anchors itself in realism, instantly feeling more human than The Hangover, Project X and every raunchy comedy made this millennium.
It is a shame then that the comedy is such a misstep. A good friend of mine called it the Ferris Bueller of our generation. Whilst I don’t agree with his sentiment entirely, I see where he was going with it. The teenage comedies of the 80s did feature the same kind of darkness featured here, think The Breakfast Club, Say Anything or Better Off Dead. Where those films differ though is that they are actually funny, 21 & Over completely misses all its comedy marks. It provides only a couple of genuine laughs, which is the whole reason we are here.
The cast all put in solid efforts. Miles Teller is going to be a revelation this year; although early he is annoying gradually as the film continues his character becomes more and more lovable. He is having unabashed fun in this role and you can tell. Skylar Astin is charming and full of charisma; he is similar to his character in Pitch Perfect but shows enough to suggest he could become a popular leading man.
Ultimately, 21 & Over doesn’t work. I respect it for chasing something a lot more meaningful, but in the end if you buy a ticket to this you want laughs. The laughs just never come though, the most you’ll get is a couple of characters that make you smile. Smiling isn’t enough and it is shame these perfectly fine performances are let down by a humourless script. Save your $20 and re-watch Superbad, even after 100 times that movie will provide you with more giggles.
2.0 out of 5.0