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Movie review: '21 and Over'

Posted 4:48pm on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013

R (crude and sexual content, pervasive strong language, graphic nudity, drugs, drinking); 93 min.

If you've signed a petition expressing outrage at the Oscar-night political incorrectness of Seth MacFarlane, stay far, far away from 21 and Over.

The movie was directed by the writers of The Hangover, most likely conceived when they were younger and dumber but also more fearless. The movie sets the crude tone early, opening with our heroes Miller and Casey (Miles Teller and Skylar Astin) looking defeated, walking across a college quad wearing nothing but athletic socks covering their genitals. Flash back one day, when the pair surprises high school friend Jeff Chang (Justin Chon) on his 21st birthday.

Chang has a strict father and a medical school interview the next morning, but he goes out anyway. Most of the movie follows Miller and Casey on a quest to get their unresponsive/hallucinating friend back to his apartment before his father shows up.

Writer/directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore find a nice balance between the over-the-top high jinks and an emotional core, which unexpectedly crystallizes relatively late in the movie. What looks like a simple journey is given Odyssey-like significance by the writers. A quest to find a residential adviser at a party has allusions to Dante's nine circles of hell and Apocalypse Now. Jeff Chang's scene telling off the college town's various bouncers is an excellent use of montage. Throwaway jokes about Smart Cars, Rocky IV and oversize music festivals ring true.

If there's a weighty question in 21 and Over, it's "Are Miller and Casey the best friends ever or the worst friends ever?" Somewhere between the scene with slow-motion puking and naked ritual branding, you'll forget you even asked.

-- Peter Hartlaub,

San Francisco Chronicle

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