21 and Up

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21 and up
Justin Chon as Jeff Chang — one of the few funny things in this comedy.

If I hear the name Scott Moore, I get excited if you’re talking about Elvis. If you mention him and Jon Lucas, and how they’re the writing team behind The Hangover – I’m a lot less excited. That was an average comedy, and the second one was horrible. This writing team also gave us the disappointing Change-Up in 2011.

Those last two movies were better than this hot mess, and this time – those guys are pulling director duty as well.

And I don’t want to see any of those angry letters or voice mails. I’m one of the few critics that gave Project X a positive review, since most of that film made me laugh.

The premise for this has been done – a college kid is turning 21 and his friends want to take him out and get him f…messed up.

We hate the first kid we see, because he’s drinking a beer in a cab and being disrespectful to the foreign driver. When he picks up his friend and ribs him about how attractive his sister is, you aren’t laughing but you think there could be potential. That’s because the actors give decent performances.

Things look brighter when actor Justin Chon (Twilight series) shows up. As Jeff Chang, the kid turning 21, he’s perfect. He’s got a mean father, and a big interview in the morning for entrance into medical school. I immediately thought about how fun the scene was in Risky Business where Tom Cruise has a big party and runs a brothel out of his house – forgetting he has somebody from the university coming over for an interview. The way that scene is shot, and the facial expressions from the two actors as they try to make the interview happen, shows you that it’s possible to have drunken debauchery and make it funny. Even if filmmakers use this same premise year after year.

Most of the barhopping and adventures they go on could’ve worked. In one, we see the straight-laced student not closing the deal with a cute girl that’s interested in him (Sarah Wright). We see a schools mascot – a buffalo – messing up the school bullies they had a run in with earlier.

A golf cart is stolen. Those usually make for fun scenes in movies, but it’s only them taking it down the stairs that illicit a smile from me.

When they have a run in with a Latina sorority, the opportunities seemed promising. I thought about the scene in Revenge of the Nerds where the guys raid a sorority while hiding cameras in various locations. Instead, they spend 25 minutes there and nothing about it is remotely funny or believable. Obviously you don’t go to these movies expecting them to be realistic. There were two mildly amusing moments in the scene. When the three guys flee by jumping into Wright’s Smart car, there’s really not room for them. This means Jeff Chang is thrown up on the dashboard (it helps that he’s drunk and completely passed out). It’s also, almost funny, when the sorority catches them and enacts their revenge.

I also laugh every time the characters call him “Jeff Chang.” I believe they do this every time they address him, and it was amusing each time.

A scene where the guys end up at a frat party and have to compete a drinking game called “Tower of Power.” Again, if you were talking music, I’d be thrilled by hearing something contained that famous horn section. Instead, this goofy drinking game leads them to various levels upstairs. It wasn’t the least bit interesting. The last Harold & Kumar movie was able to have them going to a college party and winning at beer pong in a humorous way. Is it really that hard to write jokes? The punchline to the long scene is a fat guy with a bunch of beads around his neck, and two unattractive women standing next to him, proclaiming these guys the champs.

The movie could’ve gone deeper with some characters. Since Jeff Chang (it makes me laugh writing it, too) has an overbearing father, and is possibly suicidal, that could’ve given some heart and depth to the one dimensional characters.

I hate to compare teen comedies to the John Hughes movies I grew up with in the ‘80s, but those movies could do all of that. As much as we laughed at Long Duc Dong in 16 Candles – it wouldn’t have been funny if the whole movie was him being drunk and running around with Anthony Michael Hall and John Cusak just partying. A little of that goes a long way, and it’s funnier in small doses.

There’s a bit with an old hippie dressed like an Indian and on drugs that is never funny (aside from the time the kids first see him and say “Hello Vision Quest.”)

There is a fun montage of the guys getting into various bars that had always carded Jeff Chang in the past. That doesn’t mean high school and college age audiences won’t love this. They’re going to. So to all of them I say: Everybody have fun tonight/Everybody Jeff Chang tonight!

To everyone else I say: Everybody watch some John Hughes tonight/Watch a director that did it right!

I just didn’t laugh enough to recommend it. Oh, and from this point on, if they show barfing in a movie, I’m taking off half a point on principle.

This gets 1 star out of 5.






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