Jon Lucas and Scott Moore's The Hangover successfully translated the "one crazy night" into an absurdist thriller and, more importantly for the writing duo, a mega-hit. For their directorial debut, 21 & Over, the two adapt their manchild mystery for the college crowd nearly beat for beat, substituting laughably idiotic adults for the saddest trio of bros ever brought to screen. The characters in the film spew profanity, race jokes, anti-women ideology, and pop culture non sequiturs (who doesn't love a Shrek joke?) all in the name of "having a great time." This can work — Superbad stands as proof. Instead, the script for 21 & Over scrapes the bottom of the barrel then shotguns it into our faces, amounting to a cesspool of unfunny that will likely breed a new generation of douchebags if (when?) it's taken in by impressionable youngsters.
RELATED: Watch the Debaucherous '21 and Over' Trailer
A college senior with high aspirations of chugging beers and getting laid, Miller (Miles Teller) arrives to town to meet his two best high school pals, Casey (Skylar Astin) and Jeff Chang (Justin Chon), for the latter's 21st birthday. Jeff insists they stay in — the next morning is his big medical school interview — but no, Miller insists that friends don't let friends go uncelebrated. "I am going to f**k you with alcohol," Miller proclaims with terrifying authority. And so the adventure begins: what starts as a round of beers explodes into a rampage through the college campus bar scene. When Jeff slow-motion vomits while riding a mechanical bull (an expulsion repeated four times over), the friends decide it's finally time to go home. Except, they have no idea where home is.
With Jeff blacked out, Miller and Casey set off to find someone who has a clue. All of the answers have a road block; hoping to find their friend Nicole (Sarah Wright), the men sneak into a Hispanic sorority. Focus becomes their biggest dilemma after Miller and Casey stumble upon two new pledges waiting to be "punished" by their "Pledgemistress." Who can resist spanking two co-eds under the guise of hazing? These two can't. When they're discovered, they run to their next insane scenario, Lucas and Moore turning the Hispanic sorority girls into 21 & Over's version of the Hangover gangsters. It wouldn't feel as offensive as it does if the reasoning and execution wasn't clunkier than drunk Jeff Chang walking on two feet.
21 & Over's great offense is its complete misuse of two great young actors. Since Rabbit Hole, Teller has honed a keen sense of timing in both drama and comedy, while Astin impressed with charm and wit in Pitch Perfect. Here, Lucas and Moore fill their leads' mouths with cheap dialogue, a type of lowbrow insight that makes Tucker Max look like Henry David Thoreau. Beyond their cookie cutter characters (Miller can't stop clinging to high school; Casey doesn't know how to cut loose and have fun), the two bark quips at one another that would immediately drive any normal human beings apart. Miller digs at Casey for not recalling Nicole's sorority letters because they were on her shirt, and clearly, if he was a man, he should be staring at her chest. Nicole even belittles Casey for his inability to party — apparently his passion for NPR and dream of a job after college are misguided. Dude, take a shot! That's what life is about.
RELATED: '21 And Over': Even Miles Teller Is Surprised At How Naked He Got
Teller and Astin do make the whirlwind of hate palatable, but never funny. The only laughs come from a pack of male cheerleaders, whose conception as another angry group chasing Miller and Casey seems to be an excuse to crack a Karate Kid joke. Late in the game, 21 & Over reveals its dramatic undertones and that's when it crosses the line from inane to morally irresponsible. Lucas and Moore want to challenge their 21-year-old protagonists. Instead, they let them off the hook. There are no consequences for the people in this movie. There are no rude awakenings. Our heroes threaten people with guns, decimate a college quad while outdriving the cops, and eventually punch Jeff Chang's dad in the face, but they're in the right. If we were laughing at them as they destroyed their lives, that might be entertaining. Instead, 21 & Over is just a boring lesson in why beer pong and one-night stands should be the number one priority in life.
What do you think? Tell Matt Patches directly on Twitter @misterpatches and read more of his reviews on Rotten Tomatoes!
[Photo Credit: Relativity Media]
It's not that Movie 43 is shocking or "edgy " or whatever any of the writers or directors would like to convince you. If you want to actually puke or cry or be shocked you can go to Rotten.com like the rest of us Internet miscreants. The Cinema of Transgression films by Nick Zedd and Richard Kern have more artistic value than Movie 43 and are generally more interesting. Which is saying a lot because Zedd's films can get pretty boring. You can only see Annie Sprinkle make out with a man who's listed as Ray the Burn Victim for so long... although I feel terrible for writing because everyone needs love. Sorry Ray.
Movie 43 has 12 directors and 17 writers credited with this anthology of shorts modeled according to producers Peter Farrelly and Charlie Wessler in the spirit of Kentucky Fried Movie. Surprisingly none of those writers or directors go by the name Alan Smithee. It's not even totally clear which were written and directed by whom; the production notes are "hilarious first hand [sic] accounts from those who were a part of and were witnesses to the creation of MOVIE 43."
Kate Winslet and Halle Berry and Richard Gere were tricked into participating which is supposed to make their "outrageous" shorts all the more titillating. One of the larger problems of Movie 43 is that it relies on this handful of mega-stars and on our reactions to them and their off-screen personas all in lieu of genuine comedy onscreen. Would it be funny if some schmuck on YouTube played a Steve Jobs-like character who didn't understand why his company's iBabe music player — which looks like a naked woman but has a coolant system with a fan between its legs — was mangling users? No it wouldn't. And it's definitely not any funnier because it's Richard Gere playing him.
What's most offensive about Movie 43 isn't the scatological humor but how shoddily the whole thing was put together. (To be honest I did nearly walk out during the Anna Faris/Chris Pratt short about her desire to be pooped on. I also nearly barfed during Salo. Because poop.) In quite a few of the shorts half of the actors' heads are cut out of frame. Their heads are literally cut off of the screen in a movie that was professionally filmed by accredited cinematographers. Now it could have been the theater projecting the film that was having the problem but that's not really my concern. My concern was mainly that a handful of paying customers (including myself) were sitting through a studio movie where the top of actors' heads aren't in frame.
The self-referential wraparound for the movie is embarrassing for everyone involved including the viewer. Dennis Quaid plays a disheveled crazy writer who holds a studio exec (Greg Kinnear) hostage until the exec agrees to buy his movie pitch. His pitch is the series of shorts which the exec obviously thinks is a terrible idea... because it is. This is like adding insult to injury because the creators know what they've made is crap. Even the studio exec that they themselves wrote thinks the premise of Movie 43 is crap and has to be held at gunpoint to bring the idea to his boss. This idea that you will have wasted 90 minutes of your life on — minutes you could have spent watching YouTube videos of people squeezing their own cysts or having botflies removed from their bodies or yes making out with burn victims.
Complain all you like about stodgy critics who have no sense of humor and don't get "the kids" today and all that but it seems that Peter Farrelly and the group of people who forced this towards theaters (with little to no help from most of the stars or writers or directors) are the ones who are completely out of touch. With anything. Including humor.'s>
Most drug movies glamorize the use and/or distribution of narcotics before telling the ugly truth about the addiction or jail time that follows and the shady figures that inhabit society’s underbelly. Taking characters from point A to point B and finally to their lowest point is a formulaic but effective storyline that shows how substance abuse destroys lives. It worked for Blow Scarface and The Basketball Diaries but in Limitless director Neil Burger ignores that successful blueprint and essentially says “Do drugs kids! They’ll help you! And don’t worry it’ll all work out in the end!”
Of course a more familiar narrative precedes this self-serving unorthodox conclusion and it could’ve worked if Burger navigated the story with more focus. The film begins when struggling novelist and all around slob Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) who has a permanent case of writer’s block runs into his drug-peddling-ex-brother-in-law in Manhattan (what are the odds?) This slimy fellow gives him an experimental pill called NZT that clears its users mind and helps them focus. When he ingests it his long-gestating novel is completed in a matter of hours and his grimy apartment is made-over to look like a room at the Ritz Carlton. The pace of the picture picks up quickly as Eddie climbs New York City’s social and corporate ladders acquiring wealth power women and the attention of greedy entrepreneurs ruthless gangsters and assassins who want the drug themselves.
The high-concept premise presented storytelling potential as expansive as the title suggests but Limitless is hampered by a series of discrepancies that render it silly and disjointed. Some of the smaller ones are relatively insignificant and won’t hinder the experience but others (such as the lethal effects of the drug which conveniently don’t apply to our protagonist) defy the internal logic that screenwriter Leslie Dixon sets up. It’s also hard to ignore how useless a handful of the sub-plots are. Abbie Cornish’s character starts out as motivation for Cooper’s but her relevance lessens as the stakes are raised and Eddie slips further into the worlds of finance and crime. The same can be said of the Russian gangster whose arc begins when he lends Eddie some capital for an investment and ends in a pulpy bloodbath. Burger leads you to believe that these side-stories will have greater impact on the bottom line but by the time the film wraps it becomes clear that they’ve collectively convoluted the plot.
It is however entirely possible that the filmmakers’ goal was to make a movie that mimics the incoherent mind-bending state that hallucinogens induce and in that sense Limitless works. Burger builds on that idea by visualizing the effects of NZT with unusual camera techniques including abrupt changes in color editing tricks that revisit the action in reverse (sort of) and a great time/spatial elapsing effect that literally pulls the viewer through Eddie’s lengthy drug coma. The dizzying display of surreal imagery is the films greatest gimmick designed to draw your attention away from its weaknesses.
At its core Limitless is about excess: excess of knowledge power money etc. and fittingly excess is one of its biggest problems. The filmmakers force too much upon their movie from unnecessary fight scenes to sexual encounters with metropolitan socialites that ironically water down its potency instead of giving it more edginess. Like any drug it starts out as something refreshing and stimulating but when you come down you’re stuck wondering where the last few hours went.
February 17, 2009 2:20pm EST
Remember Halle Berry as Catwoman ... will she have the same impact as a cat burglar?
Berry is attached to star in Who Is Doris Payne, a fact-based film about an international jewel thief whose career spanned five decades. The script comes from Eunetta Boone. Project is being developed by J2 partners Justin Berfield and Jason Felts, reports Variety.
The J2 duo recently got their first pilot pickup when Fox greenlit Sons of Tucson, bringing Berfield back to Fox for the first time since he starred as Reese in Malcolm in the Middle.
J2 also just wrapped An Invisible Sign of My Own, with Jessica Alba as a math whiz who withdraws from life after a mystery illness debilitates her father.
Click Here: Hollywood Wiretap
MORE NEWS: Chris Brown Speaks Out, Is 'Seeking' Help
Will Ferrell is back on-target in the dumb movie sweepstakes as Brennan Huff an over-grown overly sensitive son who has never bothered to move out of single mom’s (Mary Steenburgen) house even though he’s 40. When she meets falls in love with and marries an older doctor (Richard Jenkins) all before the opening credits are over Brennan must move into his new stepfather’s home where--you guessed it--39 year-old loser and would-be musician Dale Doback (John C. Reilly) has been living with Dad all these years as well. The new siblings who give stunted growth a whole new definition bunk together like 10-year olds with an instant rivalry that causes havoc in the household. Soon they find themselves birds of the same feather when fed-up dad announces he is selling the house and going on an around-the-world cruise with his new bride. The hapless pair are ordered to find decent jobs and a new place to live--a prospect neither relishes. After an earlier misstep this year with the inane Semi-Pro Ferrell is back in his comfort zone and finding new sparks opposite Reilly who despite the failure of his recent starring comedy Walk Hard continues to show natural comedic abilities. The two are fun to watch as they mine a lot of laughs playing imbecilic but lovable adolescent middle-aged men--Peter Pans who just never grew up. Still it’s the supporting cast that really shines. Jenkins--enjoying the best year of his career especially with his stellar turn in The Visitor is now complementing it with his riotous portrait of a put-upon dad dealing with a couple of morons who have overstayed their welcome by about 20 years. Steenburgen manages to invest the rather colorless mother role with dignity even earning a couple of laughs on her own. Adam Scott as Ferrell’s real-estate mogul brother is consistently fun particularly in leading a family sing-a-long while driving to bro’s house. Also of note Kathryn Hahn as his mousy but extremely kinky wife who tries to get down and dirty with Reilly.
Ferrell’s writing partner Adam McKay is not only co-scripting again but back behind the camera guiding Ferrell’s and Reilly’s on-screen nuttiness. Adam McKay an SNL veteran who was responsible for two of Ferrell’s biggest hits Anchorman and Talladega Nights knows from experience exactly how to take these over-the-top situations and wring every last laugh out of them. Movies like this are hit and miss so give McKay credit for hitting more than he misses. Each actor even the lesser-billed ones have their moments to shine and it’s a nice tribute to McKay’s laid back direction that none of them bellyflop. The premise of Step Brothers clearly presented some potentially rich comic possibilities and McKay and company uncover most of them. Certainly the film should strike a responsive chord with those faced with grown kids either coming back home to live or never leaving in the first place--if not quite to THESE extremes.