Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, the rookie directors of “21 and Over,” really, really want you to know that they also wrote “The Hangover.” If you dug seeing 30-something guys spend a night or so spiraling out of control, you’ll definitely go for the just-turned-legal version, right? Well, the question is less rhetorical than they might think. Among the ingredients “21” is missing: the infectiously random silliness of a Zach Galifianakis, the smug hunkiness of a Bradley Cooper, and any sort of Vegas-y gloss whatsoever.
I’m not a “Hangover” hater, exactly, but I’ve never understood all the fuss — which makes it harder still to see the appeal of a movie that aspires to be the unplugged, raunchier, more youthquaking version. Is there endless rip-roarin’ hilarity in drinking-game montages, or tampon gags, or — in this one’s idea of a beauty shot — footage of a college kid projectile-vomiting as he rides a mechanical bull? You might have to check with someone else — if not someone who’s 21 himself, then maybe someone who’s drunk.
Miles Teller (“Project X”) trades on his vintage John Cusack vibe as Miller, a motormouth partier who picks up old bud Casey (Skylar Astin, “Pitch Perfect”) for a college campus drop-in on Jeff Chang (Justin Chon, “Twilight”), another pal from back home. (The guys amusingly never call him anything other than “Jeff Chang,” a throwaway joke that’s atypical, unfortunately, of Lucas and Moore’s in-your-face approach.) Jeff has finally hit that birthday of birthdays, so it’s high time, as Miller puts it, that “your best friends take you out and [expletive] you with alcohol.” You don’t suppose things could get sticky with that big wedding — um, med school interview Jeff’s got in the morning, could they? Nah.
When Jeff passes out, Miles and Casey realize they don’t know the way back to his place, setting up a night-long odyssey filled with sorority misadventures, gangsta male cheerleaders, and an agitated tiger — um, buffalo. It didn’t entirely hit me like a party I just wanted to leave; Chon has some fun gonzo moments when the movie bothers to wake him from “Weekend at Bernie’s” drag-along mode. Miller and Casey’s sorely tested bromance eventually grows on you. And Casey’s fretting that a squirmy body art episode is an affront to Judaism might have worked for Ed Helms in “Hangover II.” But enough of highbrow wit. Beer pong, anyone?