21 and Over

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Director: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore
Cert: 16
Genre: Comedy
Starring: Justin Chon, Miles Teller, Skylar Astin
Running Time: 1 hr 33 mins

A frail, cowardly mate of mine once suggested that if a thug ever threatened to beat up your best friend, the most satisfactory solution would be to offer to do the punching yourself. Your friend receives only delicate slaps to the jaw. The assailant has no bloody knuckles. You avoid any serious injuries.

I do not present this anecdote because it sounds like something you'd hear in 21 and Over (though it does), nor as a way of filling up paragraphs on a film that allows no serious analysis; it is offered as a handy metaphor for what the writers of The Hangover have done to their own project. Heck, if anybody is going to rip off your greatest creation (itself not all that original) then it might as well be you. Jon Lucas and Scott Moore have gone the whole hog and directed this horrible little thing.

One of many recent films that could serve as a recruiting advertisement for Al Qaeda, 21 and Over finds a big idiot (Miles Teller) visiting a lesser idiot (Skylar Astin) and somebody who's almost not an idiot (Justin Chon) at some upmarket college in the American northeast.

That last character – referred to throughout as “Jeff Chang” – has just turned 21, but, due at an interview for medical school the next morning, feels unable to do what it is that leads “party” to be used as a verb.


Well, you know how these things go. Before long the three are running from jocks, sneaking guiltily through sorority houses and wearing socks on their penises.

The film is, perhaps, a little less in love with late-capitalist bacchanalia than Project X and a deal less uncomfortable in its sexual politics than Superbad . Its treatment of its main Asian character does, however, break some uneasy new ground. Surely, no Chinese person could bear the caricature of "Jeff Chang" as a buttoned-up nerd with a villainous father straight out of Orientalist Central Casting.

Well, it transpires that the film is loaded with Chinese funding and partly filmed in the PRC. Strange times.

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke, a contributor to The Irish Times, is Chief Film Correspondent and a regular columnist