Jeff Chang Turns 21

21 and Over
(USA, 93 min.)
Written and directed by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore
Starring: Miles Teller, Skylar Astin, Justin Chon, Sarah Wright, Jonathan Keltz, François Chau.
Skylar Astin, Justin Chon and Miles Teller star in 21 & Over

Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday dear Jeff Chang,
Happy Birthday to you!

Jeff Chang (Twilight’s Justin Chon) celebrates his twenty-first birthday in style in the new teen gonzo movie 21 and Over. Jeff Chang is turning 21 (even though Chon is actually 32), so his high school buddies Miller (Miles Teller, Project X) and Casey (Skylar Astin, Pitch Perfect) visit him at his Ivy League-ish university so that they can celebrate his legal drinking age. Unfortunately, though, Jeff Chang (never referred to as “Jeff”) has his all-important medical school interview the morning after his b-day. Ergo, this is not a good day to go on a birthday bender.

In the vein of all good teen comedies, however, Jeff Chang succumbs to peer-pressure and he agrees to celebrate by having “just one drink.” Miller and Casey take Jeff Chang on a wild night and the birthday boy gets catatonically drunk. The trio drag Jeff Chang on a campus pub-crawl as they try to find somebody who might know where Jeff Chang lives. Naturally, the trip home turns into an Animal House night of drinking games, sorority sexcapades, and a run-in with a wild bull. All the while, the trio must evade Jeff Chang’s tight-assed dad (François Chau) and fight for a hook-up with a perky sorority girl named Nicole (Sarah Wright).

21 and Over, with its framed narrative and night of drunken debauchery, is basically a revisit to The Hangover for a younger audience. Written and directed by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, the scribes of the original Hangover film, 21 and Over offers more booze-fuelled lunacy and adolescent hijinks. Part Hangover with a few borrowings from Weekend at Bernie’s and American Pie, 21 and Over is a decent escape.

21 and Over is, at its heart, a simple buddy comedy. As Miller and Casey drag Jeff Chang’s limp body around the campus, they repair the distance that has grown between them since the three parted ways after high school. Miller (an arrogant boor) and Casey (an uptight Momma’s Boy) are an odd-couple, but they are united by nostalgia and shared experiences. As Nicole notes during one of her barroom run-ins with the boys, one’s weirdest friends are always one’s oldest friends. Nicole’s observation has a charming bit of truth: one can have virtually nothing in common with someone save for the fact you went to the same high school, but certain friendships last thanks to crazy nights like the misadventures of Jeff Chang’s birthday.

The college-set binge drinking seems a bit over-exaggerated compared to my Aberdeen days, but 21 and Over is well at home with other university coming-of-age tales. It’s sometimes funny, in a crass, juvenile way. 21 and Over is at its best when it puts the friends in absurdly larger-than-life scenarios that test the limits of their friendship, but the film falls into tasteless aggravation just as often. The highlights of 21 and Over are merely ok and its low-points are roaring thuds. It’s too bad that much of humour relies on racist stereotypes and sexist pranks, since there is plenty of funny situational humour in 21 and Over. Film fans who cried chauvinism during Seth MacFarlane’s stint at the Oscars might best avoid the movie, but those who enjoy lowbrow comedy will guffaw through the night.

Rating: ★★½(out of ★★★★★

21 and Over opens Friday, March 1st.