The first thing readers are going to say when they read my headline is “Lauren, you can’t expect every drinking comedy to be as funny as The Hangover!” But I’m comparing 21 & Over to The Hangover because both films have the same writers and one script is tremendously better than the other. Here’s a hint: the one that is tremendously better doesn’t have a number in it.
Jon Lucas and Scott Moore co-wrote The Hangover and wrote and directed 21 & Over. The main problem with 21 & Over is that you can literally see the screenplay unfold onscreen. There are several lines like, “Oh, I’ll drive you to that party to see if that guy is there!” and “Let’s go to this next bar for one last drink before we go home!” These transitional lines don’t work well in a mindless plot like this and the writers shouldn’t treat the viewers like they don’t know what’s going to happen!
The Hangover is so brilliant and hilarious because the main plot of the film consists of three guys looking for their best friend who gets lost in Vegas after a wild night of drinking. Drama naturally unfolds as crazy things happen in their search for him. In 21 & Over, two friends Miller and Casey (Miles Teller & Skylar Astin) take their friend Jeff Chang (Justin Chon) out for his 21st birthday. The catch is Jeff Chang has an important interview for medical school the next morning. Jeff is reluctant for what seems like two minutes then agrees to go out for one beer. Cut to the next scene where the trio is at a bar and Jeff is wasted out of his mind.
The dilemma in 21 & Over is miniscule to the dilemma in The Hangover. In 21 & Over, Miller and Casey are visiting Jeff from out of town and having never been to his house before, they don’t take note of his address. After Jeff Chang is drunk and incoherent, he fails in giving his friends the address to his place, which makes them to wander around looking for his home.
Yes, that’s right, in what seems to be a small college town, the guys cannot find their way back to Jeff’s house. This leads the trio into looking for someone around town who knows Jeff Chang and his address. Obviously, chaos ensues and it’s not easy for Miller and Casey to get their poor friend back home and sobered up for his interview the next morning.
I will say 21 & Over has some genuinely funny moments and there were a few times I found myself cracking up, but I didn’t really feel good about it. Especially when one of those times is when Jeff puts a tampon in his mouth and starts chewing it like food. See? It’s not as funny when I’m writing it out. There is also a random trio of cheerleader dudes who harass Jeff Chang and his friends multiple times throughout their search back home and they were the best part of the movie. It sounds crazy, but the actors stole every scene they were in.
After those few funny moments, you’ll think you’re having a really good time watching 21 & Over and you may even expect Skylar Astin to break out and start singing. (Pitch Perfect anyone??)
But near the end of the film, you get completely blindsided with a serious plot twist that makes you question, “What kind of movie is this supposed to be?” Hilarious or heartfelt? In this case, the two mediums don’t mix well and 21 & Over turns out to be a muddled cocktail.