Review: 21 and Over

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

PLOT: On his 21st birthday, Jeff Chang (Justin Chon) is surprised by his long-estranged best friends from high-school, the uptight Casey (Skylar Astin) and the laid-back, easygoing Miller (Miles Teller). The two take him out for a night of drinking, with the promise that they’ll have him home, safe and sound, for an early night of rest so he can nail his med-school entrance interview the next morning. Things don’t quite work out that way for poor Jeff…

REVIEW: 21 & OVER comes from Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, the writers of THE HANGOVER- which is appropriate, as this is essentially THE HANGOVER-lite. Imagine the guys from THE HANGOVER (minus a Zack Galifianakis substitute) but fifteen years younger, during their college days, and you wouldn’t be far off. Teller is the wild-man Bradley Cooper-character, Astin is the uptight Ed Helms-substitute, while poor Chon is the victim of their debauchery- kinda like Justin Bartha in the first film.

Suffice to say, there’s nothing even slightly original about 21 & OVER, as truly- you’ve seen it all before. That said, I’m not convinced that’s such a bad thing as the wild drunken party movie has more-or-less become a genre of it’s own, and certainly pre-dates THE HANGOVER by decades. When it comes to these kinds of movies, there’s really only two things that are important- one, are the characters likable, and two- is it funny?

On the first count, the star trio of 21 & OVER is likable. Your heart goes out to the personable Chon, who we gather is barely keeping his sanity in school, while trying to please his borderline psychotic doctor father. When he goes overboard on the booze- which happens FAST, you want him to make it through the movie in one piece. It’s a bit of a stretch though having Chon be so deep into a drunken stupor that he’s unconscious throughout huge chunks of the film- to the point that it becomes less like THE HANGOVER, and more like WEEKEND AT BERNIE’S. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone THAT drunk, and trust me- I have (too much) experience. Then again, it’s a movie so…

With Chon unconscious most of the movie, Skylar Astin and Miles Teller become the de-facto leading men. Both guys are good. I haven’t seen Astin in much, but he’s fine as the straight-laced one, with his v-neck/tie combos, and internship on Wall Street. He also gets the love interest, played by the drop-dead gorgeous Sarah Wright who, of course, has a boyfriend that’s a total psychopath (the type of role none other than Bradley Cooper used to play before breaking out in THE HANGOVER).

Teller more or less steals the show as the wild-man Miller- and it’s interesting to see him play a much lighter take on the same kind of role he played (to great acclaim) in the recent Sundance hit, THE SPECTACULAR NOW. Unlike that film, this one wants to make you laugh not make you cry, and he’s a pretty talented guy in that he’s able to play such extreme variations on what’s essentially the same character (more or less).

So- likable characters? Check. But is 21 & OVER funny? For the most part, yes. The first half hour, charting Chon’s drunken decline is actually hilarious, but once he’s unconscious and the A-plot, being that the guys have to somehow remember where he lives so they can get him home for his big exam- kicks in, 21 & OVER becomes inconsistent. The premise is total BS. I find it a stretch that neither guy, despite having left Chon’s house only a few hours earlier, can remember where he lives, especially in the era of smart phones. Still, individual episodes are funny, such as the big dorm party where the guys have to drink their way through eight levels of beer games to see the RA, and an elaborate pep rally, complete with what (I assume) is an animatronic buffalo that looks straight out of DANCES WITH WOLVES.

In the end, 21 & OVER is pretty much on the same level as a movie like PROJECT X. It’s nothing you haven’t seen before, and it’s inconsistent- but, at the same time I laughed enough that I can’t not recommend it. It’s far from top notch, but as far as these types of movies go, it does the job well enough.

21 and Over



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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.