Extra 21 & Over
Saved by the irrepressible charm and chemistry of its terrific lead actors.
The Hangover writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore make their directorial debut with the ever-so-familiar story of a wild night out. The Hangover with students, it's every bit as bawdy and unsophisticated as its forefathers Porky's and Animal House, which makes for an unoriginal but guilty pleasure.
Obnoxious party animal Miller (Miles Teller) meets up with his polite, smart best friend Casey (Skylar Astin) to pay childhood pal Jeff Chang (Justin Chon) a visit on his 21st birthday. (Jeff Chang's full name is used throughout the entire film in case you forget the novelty of him being Asian.) Miller is horrified that Jeff won't be celebrating legal drinking age, as his strict father (Francois Chau) has arranged for him to be at a medical school interview first thing the next morning. It doesn't take a genius to work out what happens next, as 'a couple of beers' turns into a night of carnage, and the semi-conscious Jeff is unable to get home as he can't remember where he lives (despite his two friends having been there hours previously).
The film charts a chaotic night, which sees Jeff letting his hair down in comical fashion, from his absurd posturing to bouncers, the ill-fated riding of a mechanical bull, and a rather interesting 'snack' from the ladies toilets (not as gross as you'd imagine, but still sickening to watch Chon eating for real). It all goes wrong when the gang hit the college frat parties, and as all aficionados of American teen comedies know, it's a place ripe for comedy - and disaster.
21 & Over is saved by the irrepressible charm and chemistry of its terrific lead actors, all of whom have superb comic timing, and run wild with the frequently funny gags. It's a good thing Teller made his mark with his vulnerable, sensitive turn in Rabbit Hole, which makes his irredeemably awful Miller somewhat watchable. Chon was given a brief chance to be amusing in the Twilight films, and although he spends a good chunk of 21 & Over catatonic, he's hilariously lairy at all other times. Astin has more of the straight man role, but displays the easygoing charisma evident in Pitch Perfect. All come across as genuine friends on film, which is helpful.
The college-based shenanigans are predictably sexist, but there's none of the rank misogyny found in many male-bonding comedies of late - it's just filmed with the teenage boy in mind. However, as enjoyable our mini-Wolf Pack are, all the good work by casting an Asian-American as a positive lead is undone by some shocking character racism against Serbs and Hispanics that has no place in throwaway comedy. An extended gag involving a Latina sorority is staggeringly offensive, and threatens to derail the entire film. It's not helped by the ignorant Miller not being questioned by his more intelligent friend at any point (he even joins in). Another minus point comes from a love story subplot involving Casey and another student Nicole, a poorly-written character played with zero likeability by Sarah Wright.