Friday, March 1, 2013

21 & Over

Romping Around In A Hangover, Project X Style
Miles Teller as Miller, Justin Chon as Jeff Chang and Skylar Astin as Casey, in "21 & Over".  Relativity

Omar P.L. Moore/        Follow popcornreel on Twitter FOLLOW                                           
Friday, March 1, 2013

"Project X", released exactly a year ago (on the leap year date last year, actually), was apparently re-released today in the U.S. and Canada as "21 & Over", a pathetic, far more offensive film.  The new film, written by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, is indistinguishable from "The Hangover" as Mr. Lucas and Mr. Moore (no relation) wrote the 2009 hit film. 

On a college campus two male non-students wear only socks.  Both are at least 21, positioned at the tail-end of a 24-hour blur, which is what "21 & Over", a resolutely juvenile entry in idiot-boy comedy, chronicles.  Medical student Jeff Chang (Justin Chon) has a scheduled interview arranged by his strict father (Francois Chou) but best friends Miller (Miles Teller) and Casey (Skylar Astin) convince their "short yellow person" pal to have one drink to celebrate Jeff's 21st birthday.  Of course, just one drink won't be the last during a rambunctious night, which turns into an odyssey fraught with vomit episodes and insults to women.  Jeff has to get to his interview on time the next day.  Will he?

"21 & Over" is a card-carrying member of the take-no-prisoners comedy school, an equal opportunity offender, with relentlessly racist takedowns of Asians and Latinas in particular.  Mr. Lucas and Mr. Moore's film is the paranoid, xenophobic white male lens through which all other individuals are refracted.  An exercise in misogyny, "21 & Over" hasn't the deftness or spontaneity of "The Hangover" and knows it is offensive.  (Among many other indignities a white man dances in Native American headwear and is referred to as "Chief".) 

The trio of underdeveloped men patrolling "21 & Over" is sad, angry and lonely.  The film, strangely enough, barely addresses this, save for a line early on.  Mr. Chon plays a younger version of Ken Jeong's "Hangover" character, if you will, an eager whipping boy in a 21st century minstrel show (except in yellow face not black), escorted by his two white cohorts and mentors in mischief.  Thirty, forty or fifty years ago Mr. Teller and Mr. Astin's characters would be chaperoning a wide-eyed black actor as their accessory.  Today, Asian actors occupy that role in Hollywood comedies.

There's biting hate throughout "21 & Over".  Miller could be steps away from Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook elementary school killer.  Instead of killing though, Miller, who wants to go back to college, directs rages at Jeff's dad and Casey's jock rival, a buffed-up leader of a homoerotic Greek chorus.  Women in the film are props in the sexist jokes against them, the very same jokes Seth MacFarlane was so comfortable telling last Sunday.  The fairer sex in "21 & Over" and countless other films are portrayed as sex toys, angry malevolent sadists or temptresses.  Will this view of women ever change where male writers or Hollywood overall are concerned?  When it comes to the depiction of women there's no in-between, and "21 & Over" likes it like that. 

"21 & Over" literally looks as if it's been dipped in excrement in some scenes, which are muddy.  (I wouldn't be surprised if it were intentional.)  Judging from the film partying isn't fun for 20-somethings today; it's an event for self-purging.  The reality is that the party-boy movie genre is outmoded.  What happened to joyous chaos?  Comedies exalting party?  The Animal Houses, House Parties, Old Schools, Wedding Crashers, etc.?  Did 9/11/01 blunt them?  Those aforementioned films are truly old school vintage compared to "21 & Over", which invests in the same excessive mean-spirited frolic of today's party hearty movies.  Films like "Superbad", from only six years ago, seem ancient now but so much funnier.  With "21 & Over" you get what you pay for.  The film knows exactly what it is, and it's nothing more than that.

The laugh-track from the viewing public at "21 & Over" felt canned: an audience programmed to laugh as if they knew the film's trio of main stars were in the theatre.  (Which they in fact were.)  "21 & Over" masquerades as a rite of passage to manhood but celebrates aimlessness and nihilism.  Jeff, a reputed A-student, has goals but is illogical and silly.  He gets shit-faced drunk, sees the light, rebuffs common sense and his own aspirations in a harsh economic climate in order to stay numbed and foolish.  Why?  There's a celebration of conformity to nothingness and an endorsement of stupidity that "21 & Over" can't defend, even on a joke-by-joke basis. 

None of "21 & Over" makes sense.  None of it is funny.  There's almost nothing you haven't seen before in a film like this.  The "Harold & Kumar" series, even with its tastelessness, is infinitely smarter.  You wonder if the writers here are stuck in their own time warp, unable to untrack themselves from such weak writing and shallow material.  Did Mr. Lucas and Mr. Moore hit a wall?  Did the wall hit them?  Smack them upside their heads? 

There's one scene where a man is humiliated with the words RESPECT ME written on his torso.  He wears a bra, and it's disturbingly evident that "21 & Over", in addition to its other vices, is deliberately mocking women who demand respect of their bodies and souls and want to avoid being raped.  There's an offensive scene where the same man chews a feminine hygiene product.  He swallows it.  If this is the type of movie you are raring to see, then God help you.

Also with: Sarah Wright, Jonathan Keltz, Russell Hodgkinson.

"21 & Over" is rated R by the Motion Picture Association Of America for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, some graphic nudity, drugs and drinking.  The film's running time is one hour and 37 minutes.

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