Here's the most salient fact about 21 and Over: it was written and directed by the writers of The Hangover, and they don’t mess with a bankable formula. Once again, epic debauchery, foolishness and the young male libido are celebrated, much as they were in last year’s very similar Project X.
In this iteration, the straight-laced, soon-to-be college graduate Casey and irreverent, irresponsible Miller have arrived to help their old friend Jeff celebrate a milestone — his 21st birthday. Miller wants Jeff to have a face-melting blowout (largely because that’s what he wants for himself). Casey (Skylar Astin) is preparing to spend the upcoming spring break interning at a New York brokerage firm. Miller (Miles Teller), on the other hand, has dropped out of college and seems perpetually in party mode — when we first see him, he’s drinking a beer during his taxi ride to pick up Casey. Teller, whose deadpan, rapid-fire patter bears the influence of Vince Vaughn, is the film's chief source of merriment. Jeff stresses to the pair that he can’t go out because he has a medical school interview the next day. Which can only mean one thing: shit’s about to go down.
After some cursory persuasion, Jeff agrees, and the trio hit the town, hopping from bar to bar. Jeff — who's called by his full name, Jeff Chang, throughout — consumes so much alcohol that he passes out, leaving his friends with the task of figuring out where they are, and where Jeff lives. One of the obstacles movies like 21 and Over create for themselves is that they’re all about the outrageous moments, hence a kind of fatigue sets in. Toward the end, when Casey and Miller have to kiss as punishment for an earlier transgression, it isn’t shocking, mostly because we’ve seen this too many times in other movies and TV shows as a punchline. Films like 21 and Over celebrate the idea that if we can just get wasted enough, there’s an orgy of untold pleasures waiting be had and memories waiting to be made, and we’ll look back on all the embarrassing bits with fondness.
To outsized levels, the movie plays up the joys of finally being of age to get into a bar and the allure of drinking itself, as if alcohol were a gateway to a magical land. But for all that Jeff consumes, it's a wonder he doesn't die of alcohol poisoning. There’s lots of property damage and bodily injury but little if any life-altering consequences. Dropping someone from a third-story window doesn’t result in any broken bones; a dart to the face is experienced more as an insult than as the eye-watering pain it should be. But films like this aren’t about logic, they’re about laughs, and there are plenty to go around. Just don't try this stuff at home.