I guess the age of 21 is universally accepted that one turns into an adult, and there's nothing like celebrating this milestone with the wildest parties and the strongest booze, together with like-minded friends who are all out to have a great time. In many ways this is the lite version of The Hangover, with best of friends gathered round to celebrate a milestone in a friend's life, only for a series of madcap events that unfold, threatening the state of their friendship and revealing a lot more about those whom each thought they knew best.
In 21 & Over, three friends since their high school days form our protagonists, although from a narrative standpoint they are cookie-cut from the cliche mold of the loud-and-extremely-foul mouthed know-it-all, the calmer, self assured counterpart, and the wildcard. It's an exercise for writer-directing duo Jon Lucas and Scott Moore in character crafting and development, giving each lead a distinct personality, and to see how far they can push each without having to repeat themselves. And in some ways it succeeded, especially when the characters have backgrounds that are more than meets the eye, with the story teasing and slowly revealing just what they are, adding further dimensions to what may have been perceived as yet another average teenage sexual comedic romp, which this is not.
Miles Teller is Miller the default motor-mouth, looking to give Jonah Hill a run for his money, fleshing the character to exact proportions of vulgar verbosity, he inevitably becomes the life of the party, as will any character given the blessing to swear by the bucket-load. If there's a hare-brained idea stemming from the ridiculous, you'd know just who to look for, or where it's going to be spouted from. Fairly consistent in thought and schemes, Miller is the quintessential friend who will always get one into trouble, even if it began with the noblest of intention.
Skylar Astin plays Casey, the one amongst the three who was thought to be most successful, having snagged a high paying, high flying job that's waiting for him in Wall Street, New York. But he discovers, as do the others, that he's no longer amongst his friends' inner circle, and his living by the rules has stifled his inner creativity. The romantic angle of the story, to keep it from being too testosterone based, becomes this character's responsibility to shoulder, as he hooks up with Nicole (Sarah Wright), who pops into and out of the story at various points in its less than 24 hours timeline, and it's quite expected how this character would develop and turn out by the end of it.
Then there's the token Asian Jeff Chang (Justin Chon), the catalyst for everyone's problems as it is his 21st birthday that had caused his best friends to drop by and celebrate, much to his father's chagrin because of an important interview the next day. Still, going out, drinking and passing out meant he gets to bear the brunt of a lot of toilet humour – the one with the tampon takes the cake – and didn't call for a lot of acting chops since he's, well, passed out most of the time. But if anything his story arc does, is to reinforce the notion that Asian parenting is hard core, and quite patriarchal, with whatever the father figure says being cast in stone, leading to a lot of pressures on Jeff that we will learn together with Miller and Casey, from third party as the tale of crazy shenanigans wore on, which was just to get the drunk Jeff home safely.
Expect scenes with plenty of hard boozing, drugs and nudity of the male kind with socks used to preserve modesty, as the tale touches on the very primary theme of friendship, where it is always uncanny that good friends can call it a day, and yet when reunited can carry on as if there's no impact from the passage of time, where everyone can just carry on where they last left off. There's the obvious catching up to do, but what better than to unravel key changes through a series of crazy adventure spanning over night, rather than having no film if this was to be a chat over coffee in someone's cozy home. And then as a last minute throw-in, what it means to stand up for oneself and to pursue one's dreams, rather than the dreams of what others and society expects of you. Romantic notions, but real ones nonetheless that lifts this film above the average teenage comedy, into something with a little more depth. Recommended!