Jeff Chang has always done what's expected of him. It's not always what he wants, and it's certainly caused him lots of stress, but if his family tells him to buckle down and become a doctor, then a buckled-down doc he will be. So when his domineering dad demands that Jeff get to bed early on the night of his 21st birthday and be well-rested for a medical school interview bright and early the next morning, well, that's exactly what Jeff does.
Or at least tries to do before his old high school buddies Miller and Casey show up to change his plans. With their arrival, everything sane and/or sanitary pretty much goes out the window. Miller is a machine gun-mouthed force-of-nature manic who could likely convince a pig to join a butcher's convention for breakfast. And so Chang has no choice but to go out for … OK, one beer with his pals. It is his 21st b-day after all, he finally figures.
A few hours and more than a few shots later Jeff is standing on a bar, dropping his pants and urinating on a gaggle of gaping girls and spewing vomit on a cringing crowd. Hey! Maybe his friends are right: If you can't abuse yourself when you're young, when can you? Give us all another round!
Now where's that pig?
Miller, Casey and Jeff used to be pretty close back in high school. And they all miss those simpler times of friendship. So in a way, this movie is their misguided attempt to try to recapture that closeness, though it doesn't go as they expect.
Sorority girls—all dressed in hooded cloaks, one wearing a goat's head—pass judgment on Miller and Casey in a coven-like conclave.
What would an R-rated sleazecom be without multi-angle views of public nudity and sexual situations? Well, much shorter for one thing. But 21 & Over is not short. And it does not forgo those tired and dirty conventions. So brace yourself if you're going to keep reading through this section:
Miller and Casey are showcased in a number of scenes dressed in nothing but hanging tube socks. We see them from the front, the back, the side and even from up between their legs and while bending over. That last pose takes place as the two guys are punished by a pair of sorority girls with wooden paddles. Then the naked pals are forced to kiss each other (mouths open) as part of their "sentence."
Don't feel sorry for them, though. Feel sorry for yourself having to read about this. Because the guys had made similar demands of a pair of blindfolded sorority pledges (paddling them and asking them to kiss and fondle each other) earlier on. Jeff, while unconscious, is dressed in "only" a bra and a glued-on teddy bear (stuck to his genitals). Once he comes to, he runs around town, climbing up on cars and dancing in this next-to-naked state. We later get doused with a graphic, see-everything tug-of-war between his private parts and the stuffed animal as it's yanked free.
Scores of co-eds expose lots of flesh in tight-fitting, low-cut and/or midriff-baring outfits. Two girls expose their breasts during a drinking game. One runs shirtless and braless through a crowd. Guys and girls can be seen necking and groping at various parties and bars. Jeff downs shots held between one girl's ample breasts, out of another's belly button and from the folds of a fat man's armpit.
Casey reports that he never joined a fraternity because he's "not angry and secretly gay." We hear lots of crude-to-obscene references to various sexual activities and proclivities. Teens and young adults discuss having sex with siblings, and make raunchy jokes about masturbation, menstrual cycles, pubic hair, homosexuality and anal sex. They talk about "scoring" sexually through lies and manipulation.
As Miller and Casey romp around town with their often comatose pal in tow, they drop him out of high windows—in one case thumping him down on the roof of a van and another time bouncing him off a vinyl pool cover to land in a bramble of thorns. (Casey's girl, Nicole, then plucks large thorns out of Jeff's naked backside.) The guys incite something of a riot at a school pep rally. Miller shoots a pistol into the air and sends a huge buffalo charging around, butting and running over students. (We see one guy leave the hospital later, his face bruised and badly scratched.)
Jeff drunkenly throws a dart off target and embeds it in a guy's cheek. After pulling the dart out of his face, the bleeding victim hits Jeff with a bar stool. Even more drunk, Jeff stumbles around a sorority bathroom, prompting a frightened girl to hit him in the throat, knee him in the crotch and slam him to the floor. The whole sorority of girls then start chasing our "heroes," smashing through doors with golf clubs and other makeshift weapons. Jeff steals a van and drives it recklessly through campus, bashing over parking meters and ultimately launching the vehicle off an embankment.
As the night unfolds, Miller and Casey find themselves involved in several punching scuffles. And they're threatened by a group of students wielding a red-hot branding iron. (We later see the guys walking naked across campus with a raw-looking brand on their backsides.) An angry guy punches Jeff in the face and starts smashing up his apartment with a baseball bat. At that point, Jeff's father steps in and knocks the offending student on his backside with a bat upside his head.
We find out that Jeff had, at one point, attempted suicide.
Crude or Profane Language
The obscenity count approaches 200 f-words with about 60 s-words added in. We hear lots of exclamations of crudities such as "h‑‑‑," "b‑‑ch," "a‑‑" and "b‑‑tard." God's and Jesus' names are misused repeatedly (including several combinations of "God" and "d‑‑n"). There are numerous crude references to male and female genitalia. Miller uses "Jew" as a joking slur. Epithets are flung at Eskimos, African-Americans and the Chinese. Obscene hand gestures are made.
Drug and Alcohol Content
From the first scene on, gallons and gallons and gallons of beer and all manner of other liquid intoxicants are downed by the film's central protagonists and the scores of college partiers around them. They guzzle shots, drink straight out of bottles and flip upside-down to suck from a keg.
A number of guys toke joints—sitting stoned in a cloud of smoke. A teacher takes two sheets of LSD and dances around all night dressed as a Native American chief. Miller wonders aloud if they're too old to drop acid and take Ecstasy; the answer is a resounding no! Jeff reportedly popped lots of stimulants to keep up with his studies.
Other Negative Elements
A long, slo-mo scene shows us Jeff vomiting on a bar crowd as he rides a mechanical bucking bull. As mentioned, he also drops his trousers and urinates on a group of girls. He eats a tampon, thinking it's candy in his drunken stupor.
21 & Over also goes out of its way to promote a pervasive ethos of youthful sloth and wanton "enjoyment" over hard work. Early on, for instance, Casey reports that he's going to spend his summer working with a prestigious law firm. But throughout the film, his friends mock the choice, deeming it stupid beyond all comparison. Nicole equates reaching your thirties to the necessary "life-killing" evils of marriage and child-rearing, and she openly encourages Casey (and moviegoers) to think that now is the time to do "as much crazy s‑‑‑ as possible."
Ever heard of tachyphylaxis? It's a fancy label for the tendency our bodies have to generate a decreased response to medicines and other substances ingested or absorbed over a period of time. In other words, our system builds up a tolerance to whatever we're consuming. Thus, larger doses are required to produce the same physical response.
Well, I think we Americans are definitely in the throes of gross-out comedy tachyphylaxis.
It used to take just a single bare breast or a lone vomiting/defecation scene to set a pic apart as an edgy comedy. But those "simple" debaucheries have become passé. Today you need, at minimum, two bare backside paddlings, one drunken orgy, some version of animal torture, discussions of incestuous sex and multiple close-ups of someone's genitals being manhandled to qualify as a true randy laugh-fest.
If the flick appears to have something fond to say about friendships—like this one does—then so be it. But it's not all that necessary, actually. These friends, for instance, lament their waning relationships, but then go on to assail and torture one another with a the kind of glee I can only think Marquis de Sade shared. Hey, that's the smutty nastiness that earns the chuckles, right?
Still not sure if this is or isn't the right date night movie for you? OK, let me give it one more descriptive go:
21 & Over is an obscenely raunchy, rude and revolting sibling of The Hangover flicks. It's a gratuitously grotty pic that lauds the ethos of living insanely while you're young and showcases naked guys with festering brands on their backsides, dressed in nothing but socks.
This is now the sad, tachyphylaxis-induced state of comedy du jour.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Miles Teller as Miller; Skylar Astin as Casey; Justin Chon as Jeff Chang; Sarah Wright as Nicole
Jon Lucas and Scott Moore
March 1, 2013
Bob Hoose Bob Hoose