21 AND OVER (Rated R)
At first, I thought the film of week would be “Jack the Giant Slayer,” if only because it appeared more family-friendly. Then, an unfortunate circumstance caused me to miss the press screening.
On top of it all, “Jack the Giant Slayer” looked like another derivative fairy tale film, most likely a subpar fantasy adventure that would fall below the standards of “The Hobbit” or even “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters.”
And so, the next best opportunity was a screening of “21 and Over,” another derivative film that is an obvious offshoot of “The Hangover” film, as the result of the creative writing efforts of Jon Lucas and Scott Moore.
This time around the team of Lucas and Moore are the writers and directors of “21 and Over,” apparently having learned a thing or two on “The Hangover” experience about rowdy, crude comedy.
One could easily sum up the plot, such as it involves one night of total debauchery, as a wild and crazy comedy that is undeniably a “Hangover” for the college crowd.
Geared to frat house pranks made popular by “Animal House,” this film stars relative unknowns, which at least makes it easier to accept their lunacy as some sort of rite of passage.
Miller (Miles Teller) and Casey (Skylar Astin), seemingly polar opposites in disposition, are old high school buddies who arrive at the fictional Northern Pacific University to celebrate the 21st birthday of an old pal.
The film opens with this pair, looking bruised and battered, walking across the campus completely naked with only tube socks covering their private parts. The manic nod to wackiness is almost immediate.
The buddy in question is Jeff Chang (Justin Chon), a rather diminutive Asian-American student that everyone, and particularly his domineering father, expects to be the stereotypical overachiever.
When Miller and Casey show up in a surprise visit, the studious Jeff Chang begs off from a birthday celebration because he’s getting ready for his critical medical school interview early the next morning.
After a serious bit of cajoling, Jeff Chang (everyone calls him by his full name) relents, agreeing to one celebratory drink at a local saloon.
After all, Jeff Chang, who still looks like a teenage girl, is now unencumbered by the nuisance of using a fake ID to get past bothersome bouncers.
Taking great pleasure in flashing his real ID to the stoic bouncers, Jeff Chang, loosened by copious amounts of alcohol, is soon flashing co-eds, downing shots and riding a mechanical bull.
As the night progresses, Jeff Chang’s nearly perpetual state of inebriation to the point of being comatose leads to a series of comic misadventures.
After a substantial amount of hard-partying, Miller and Casey, surprisingly lucid if not completely sober, decide to take Jeff Chang home so that he can be ready for his crucial interview.
The only problem is that Miller and Casey have no idea where their buddy lives, and no other students know him at all. A tenuous lead that involves perky blonde Nicole (Sarah Wright) sends the boys on a wild goose chase.
In search of Nicole, Miller and Casey drag Jeff Chang around like a rag doll, even invading a Latina sorority where they become engage in pranks that later lead to serious repercussions.
Aside from paddling sorority pledges in lingerie, Miller and Casey also cause a near-riot at a pep rally, turning the school’s buffalo mascot into a rampaging beast that terrorizes the student body.
The boys also tangle with some snotty frat boy types who happen to be rah-rah yell leaders, modeled after the same type of uptight jerks that were repulsed by John Belushi in “Animal House.”
Bad taste gags abound, and yet much of this film is surprisingly funny. In the pursuit of laughs, it goes for shameless physical comedy.
The high (or low) point may well be when the drunken Jeff Chang, suddenly hungry, begins chewing on a tampon, mistaking it for a candy bar.
Working a successful comedic formula, “21 and Over” is mostly an entertainment for the spring break crowd. Those college kids sure have a lot of dumb fun, and they let us in on it.
The ABC TV network is unleashing a new drama series, though one would easily guess that it derived its cue from another similar-themed but failed series of another network.
I am referring to “Red Widow,” which is not entirely dissimilar from “Mob Doctor,” a fall series already long forgotten.
The same fate may well await “Red Widow,” despite the best efforts of Radha Mitchell’s Marta, the daughter of a Russian mobster who wants nothing to do with the underworld.
Trouble is, and this is not giving away any surprise, her husband Evan (Anson Mount) is killed as part of some sort of revenge plot for a heist gone bad.
The grieving Marta must protect her three children at all costs, but a shadowy figure named Schiller insists that she must repay a debt owed by her late husband.
Midseason shows are not usual successful, and “Red Widow,” slated for an expected eight episode run, may soon run out of sustainable interest.
It doesn’t help when the most interesting character, in this case Anson Mount’s Evan, is bumped off in the pilot episode.
Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.