21 and Over

Posted on February 28, 2013 at 10:14 am

The writers of “The Hangover” have written and directed a new film so close to the original they could sue themselves for plagiarism. Once again, it is the story of a a wolf pack of bros looking for a good time who have a wild night with an important deadline the next day, told in a flashback.

We meet our two main characters, Miller (Miles Teller of “Rabbit Hole” and “Footloose”) and Casey (Skylar Astin of “Pitch Perfect”), walking across a university campus at 6 am, naked except for a tube sock each, their rear ends inflamed.  Then we go back a day to find out how this happened.

Miller and Casey (who appear to have just one name each) arrive at the campus of the fictitious Northern Pacific University (filmed at the University of Washington in Seattle) to surprise their high school friend, Jeff Chang (Justin Chon), who is always referred to by his full name.  It is Chang’s 21st birthday, and they want to be there to celebrate by geting him legally drunk.  But Chang’s stern father is there to make sure that his son sticks to his studies and is ready for a very important med school interview at 8 the next morning.  At first, Chang insists that he cannot go out with his friends.  But soon he says he will have just one drink.  And they assure him they will take good care of him and get him right back for a good night’s sleep.  They’re both wrong.

They go to a bar and Chang gets drunk.  When he passes out, Miller and Casey cannot remember where he lives, and so they end up dragging Chang around like a sack of potatoes through a Latina sorority, a pep rally, and a party where Miller and Casey have to win a series of party games, mostly involving more drinking, plus a prank that involves gluing a plush animal to a very personal body part.  It’s regrettably retro, with drinking as an emblem of freedom, an aversion to growing up that would embarrass Peter Pan, and (sigh) heterosexual girl/girl kissing as super-hot but heterosexual boy/boy kissing as unquestionably disgusting and worthy of an old-fashioned homosexual panic.

“The Hangover” worked because it allowed the audience the best of both worlds — to enjoy the unleashed id of the debauched night through the lens of the consequences.  It also benefited from characters like Mr. Chow, Black Doug, Jade, and Mike Tyson, and from the talents of supremely gifted performers.  Teller and Astin are able and likable performers with a good feeling for the rhythms of bro-speak but neither they nor the one-dimensional characters they are given to play are enough to sustain our interest, much less our sympathy.  The story wants to be deliciously outrageous and transgressive.  It is just tawdry and juvenile.

One more note: the producers are adding two additional scenes to the version being released in China.  A Chinese company providing production money insisted that the dubbed version be refitted as a story of a Chinese student who discovers the decadence and other evils of Western ways and returns home a wiser and more obedient young man, a sort of Chinese “Hell House.”  I’m sure that version will not be any better, but I can see their point.

Parents should know that this movie has just about every kind of bad behavior including drinking to excess and drinking games, drugs, extremely strong and crude language including ethnic and racial slurs, and comic violence including a gun, assorted mayhem, a car chase, a one-animal stampede, discussion of assault and attempted suicide, explicit sexual references and nudity.

Family discussion:  What should Jeff say to his father?  Why were these guys friends?  How do you find a balance between doing what is best for your future and finding time to have fun?

If you like this, try: “The Hangover,” “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle,” and “Superbad”

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