SCORE: 1.5 stars (out of 4)
The so-called comedy 21 & Over is offensive. Not because it’s racist, sexist, homophobic and cruel, but because it’s racist, sexist, homophobic and cruel in a dull, monotonous way. It’s got a scene where a guy gets up on a bar, strips down and pees on everyone, and that turns out to be the high point, as well as a metaphor for the movie itself.
That’s exactly what the movie does. It’s paranoid that you’ll stop looking at it, so it does outrageous things to keep your attention. The bar-pee scene works, for what it is, because it takes you by surprise. Just about anything, no matter how awful, can be funny if it blasts you from the right trajectory.
The writer/director duo of Jon Lucas and Scott Moore are capable of doing just that, as they proved when they wrote The Hangover, which is probably the ultimate bromance of our time. But with Ghosts of Girlfriends Past and Four Christmases, they’ve also proven that they’ve got no problem flipping it on autopilot and taking a nap.
Now, sitting together in a double-wide director’s chair, they seem hungover themselves, nearly passed out and scribbling semi-thought-out punchlines for their marginally talented actors to mumble.
The concept — a mix tape of Animal House, Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, Superbad and Dude, Where’s My Car? — has potential, tagging along on a trio of college seniors’ drunken night of self-discovery. Free-spirited Miller (Miles Teller) and uptight tool Casey (Skylar Astin) recruit their oppressed pre-med pal Jeff Chang (Justin Chon) out for a night of 21st birthday binge drinking, get him Lindsay Lohan-caliber wasted and try to get him back in time for an important interview the next morning.
Do you think the name “Jeff Chang” is funny? Lucas and Moore really do, so you’d better learn to think so, too. Miller and Casey say things that would normally not be funny, but are expected to be funny because they say “Jeff Chang” rather than just “Jeff” or “Chang.” Like “Ohmigod, where did Jeff Chang go?” or “Is Jeff Chang dead?”
It’s the movie’s way of trying to get sort of an inside joke going, but it ends up being, at best, an outside joke.
Brash and giddily inappropriate, Miller is sort of like American Pie’s Stifler, only with the tendency to sprout insanely racist non-jokes that would furrow eyebrows and shake heads at a bowling league in the 1940s. I guess the movie’s goal is to be so far over the top in its racism that it’s post-racist, or something.
John Goodman in The Big Lebowski, though, this ain’t. The Jeff Chang character is just an embarrassing caricature to be tossed around by the dopey, sadistic bullies that serve as excuses for his friends. The movie makes up for its Asian racism by going equal opportunity in its targets, hitting Latinos, gays, Eastern Europeans, Jews, and Indians with even lameness.
The wacky gags only get more braindead from there, and the story is just a neverneding game of Calvinball that keeps tossing out dumb reasons for it to continue.
Another recurring outside joke is Chief, an old guy who dances around half-naked in a headdress. When Chief comes to, he asks the guys how their night was.
“Pretty terrible, actually,” Miller says, speaking for everyone in the theater.
Starring Justin Chon, Miles Teller, Skylar Astin and Sara Wright. Written and directed by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore. 93 minutes. Rated R.