By Mark Saldana
Rating: 2.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
From Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, the writers of The Change-Up and The Hangover movies, comes their directorial debut, which actually feels like a college age version of The Hangover, Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, and a lot of other intoxicated, debauchery tales that have preceded it. The trouble with this film is it rehashes so many of the same plot/story elements, characters, clichés and trappings that it often left me with that “Been there, done that.” feeling. To the credit of Lucas and Moore, despite the all too familiar territory that they tread with their script, these guys know comedy well and still managed to get me laughing, and often quite heartily.
On the night of his 21st birthday, college student Jeff Chang (Justin Chon), receives a visit from his old high school buddies Casey (Skylar Austin) and Miller (Miles Teller) who want to bar hop with him and get him completely wasted. The problem lies in the fact that Jeff’s strict and intimidating father (Francois Chau) also has paid him a visit and plans to take him to a medical school interview, early the following morning. Succumbing to peer-pressure, Jeff agrees to a night out on the town, but things eventually spin wildly out of control.
I really don’t have too much to add to my criticism of the plot and story. Lucas and Moore fail to bring any creative or fresh elements to their film. The piece does have its entertainment value with most of the jokes succeeding, but because the film feels like a copy-cat of other films including those written by Lucas and Moore, the events play out mostly predictably. Some of the gags do get repeated too much, but not so badly that they become tiresome.
I found the cast quite talented and enjoyable, though some of the character depictions are quite caricaturesque. Skylar Austin, who also starred as the love interest in Pitch Perfect does not do anything dynamically different with this character, but does exude a witty charm as the most reasonable straight man of the trio of friends here. Miles Teller, who stars as Miller, the wild card of a troublemaker, seems to channel Vince Vaughan’s fast talking car salesman character, but does it in a way that is not quite as annoying. Well, I think the fact that Vaughan always plays that character now is the annoying part, but that’s a whole different subject for a different review. Teller delivers a solid portrayal, but the fact that he emulates a stale persona of another actor bewilders me. I would have preferred that he bring something new to the table. As Jeff Chang, Justin Chon does well as a sometimes insane and sometimes out of it drunk on his 21st birthday.
My recommendation for this film is to see it as a matinee or wait to rent it. It certainly delivers on a raucous comedic level, but unfortunately, Lucas and Moore duplicate their own work as well as the work of others before them. Obviously the content will not appeal to everyone’s tastes. Those who despise wild, reckless, crude, and explicit sexual content, as well as strong profanity, will not find much enjoyment in this film.