Film: “21 & Over”; Cast: Miles Teller, Justin Chon, Jonathan Keltz, Skylar Astin, Sarah Wright, Jonathan Keltz, Francois Chau, Russell Hodgkinson, Daniel Booko, Russell Mercado, Josie Loren, Christiann Castellanos and Dustin Ybarra; Writers-Directors: Jon Lucas and Scott Moore; Rating: ** 1/2
The film “21 & Over” has the sensibilities of the west, but at its core, it carries sentimental messages of friendship. It’s about three friends bonding, very much akin to Abhishek Kapoora’s desi film “Kai Po Che!”.
There are so many similarities between the two films that revealing the parallels would result in spoilers. Unlike “Kai Po Che!”, “21 & Over”, the directorial debut of screenwriters Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, is an out-an-out teen-adult comedy trailing on the lines of the hugely popular films of the early 1980s — “Lemon Popsicle” and “Hot Bubblegum”.
Set in a university campus in the US, “21 & Over” is a nightlong odyssey of the three friends. It reveals what happened a day before and on Jeff Chang’s (Justin Chon) 21st birthday.
His best friends in high school, Miller (Miles Teller) and Casey (Skylar Astin) arrive on the campus, determined to show Jeff a good time on this landmark day in his life, when he turns into an adult. The problem is Jeff has an important medical school interview on the same day that has been fixed by his dominating father (Francois Chau). And he is forewarned by his father, “Be rested, be sharp and don’t embarrass me”. So Jeff decides to stay at home.
But Miller, the free spirit of the trio, won’t take no for an answer. He cajoles Jeff with, “We have come all the way to celebrate your birthday. This is your 21st birthday. This is the day you tell the world that you have become a man. And I’ll f**k you up with alcohol.”
Jeff, not wanting to disappoint his friends agrees to go out with them and have just one beer. But he does not stick to this resolution.
Jeff, it turns out, has an inner party animal instinct waiting to break free, leaving him in a drunken stupor and his buddies realising they have no clue where he lives.
What follows is debauchery at the highest point with set comedy of errors where Miller and Casey attempt to get their old pal home, encountering outlandish college students and getting caught up in wild escapades.
Meanwhile, along the way, the mostly-unconscious Jeff suffers from various forms of physical exploitation and humiliation and his friends slowly begin to suspect that he suffers from serious personal issues – and so do they, as it turns out.
Chon as the inebriated Jeff is amusing and has his moments to shine. Teller impresses by delivering a charismatic performance that doesn’t oversell the fact that his character’s behaviour is all a defence mechanism for fears about being left behind by his higher-achieving friends.
Astin as Cassey is solid playing the foil to Teller. Of the rest of the cast, Samantha Futerman as the Chinese neighbour and Russell Hodgkinson as the druggie in Red Indian attire create a desirable impression and garner enough laughs for their cameos.
Sarah Wright, Jonathan Keltz and Franois Chau are wasted as they don’t bring too much to their characters.
With a few exceptionally jerky edits and grainy images, the overall flow of the film is smooth. The directors seem to take a scattershot approach that works as well as fails in equal measure.
It’s the light moments that keep it from being utterly uninteresting. After all, everyone has that fond memory of being young, dumb and making fabulously bad choices and then laughing about it the next day. The film “21 & Over” is one of those days captured on celluloid.