Paris Hilton once said, “The way I see it, you should live everyday like it’s your birthday.” Of course she would think that way. She’s young. And rich.
Like death and taxes birthdays are one of the events that touch everyone’s lives. Not everyone loves to celebrate getting older—“There is still no cure for the common birthday,” said John Glenn—but Hollywood seems to enjoy throwing birthday parties—on screen at least.
This weekend in 21 and Over a med school student makes merry on his birthday with two of his besties. But like so many movie birthday parties it goes horribly wrong—or horribly right if you have a taste for humiliation, extreme drunkenness and debauchery.
Still, I’ll take humiliation over an onslaught of bloodthirsty seagulls any day. In Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds a flock of real-life Angry Birds invade little Cathy’s outdoor party, pecking at the guests and ruining her big day.
Horror movies have frequently used birthday parties as a backdrop for terror. The alien invasion movie Signs made Bravo’s 100 Scariest Movie Moments list for a scene showing news footage of an alien at a child’s birthday party in Brazil.
The film Logan’s Run is set in an idyllic future. There’s just one huge drawback—on your twenty-first birthday you will be vaporized into a sticky goo during a ritual called the Carousel. “It takes all the fun out of dying,” says one character.
Then there are the bad cinematic gifts.
Bella Swan’s (Kristen Stewart) eighteenth New Moon birthday saw her vampire boyfriend Edward (Robert Pattinson) break up with her and in Old School Frank the Tank (Will Ferrell) gives a child a toaster for a present. “What do you think, Max? It’s got three speeds.”
In Taken Liam Neeson’s ex-CIA agent character is upstaged when he buys his daughter a karaoke machine for her birthday, while her stepdad gets her what she really wanted—a horse.
Not all movie birthdays are bummers, however.
Despite hiring a drunken clown to perform at his nephew Miles’s (Macaulay Culkin) birthday, Uncle Buck, played by the late, great John Candy, does the best he can to throw a great birthday party. The best part? He makes giant pancakes—they’re so extreme they now have their own facebook page with 290 likes—boasting, “You should see the toast. I couldn’t even get it through the door!”
The trick to gauging your enjoyment of “21 and Over,” a new college comedy starring people you’ve never heard of and Skylar Astin, is to think deeply about your ability to sit through an extended vomiting scene. In slow motion. If you are game for that, read on, if not, “Wreck it Ralph” comes out next week on Blu Ray.
In a movie like “21 and Over,” which is sort of a “Hangover” for young adults, when a father character says to his son, “Be rested, be sharp and don’t embarrass me,” that, of course, is the opposite of what’s going to happen.
Miller (Miles Teller), Casey (Astin) and Jeff Chang (Justin Chon) are childhood BFFs whose lives have taken different courses. Miller is a smart-mouth troublemaker killing time at a state college while his friends are hitting the books at Princeton. On Jeff’s twenty-first birthday the three reconnect to celebrate. Trouble is, Jeff has an important interview the next morning arranged by his overbearing father (François Chau).
Against his better judgment Jeff agrees to go out, just for a beer or two before getting a good night’s sleep.
If Jeff had followed his better instincts we wouldn’t have much of a movie. But as it stands we don’t have much of a movie even though the trio goes on a rampage of body shots, beer pong and pants dropping, complete with angry sorority sisters, flashes of gratuitous nudity and a berserk buffalo. Soon Jeff is legless and it’s up to his pals to take him home, carrying him around “Weekend at Bernie’s” style. There’s just one BIG problem, they can’t remember where he lives.
“21 and Over” is a coming of immaturity story, a movie about a character who says, “I don’t need you to grow up, you need to grow down.” Each of these manboys gives credence to the old saying, “Just because you got big doesn’t mean you grew up.”
I don’t mind puerile behavior. As long as it is amusing, I’ll watch it onscreen and sometimes even still engage in it myself. My issue with “21 and Over” is that it isn’t funny. It tries for that elusive balance of vulgarity to heartfelt-hug-it-out-good-vibes but like everyone who tries this (except Judd Apatow), it’s lopsided.
Can a movie that uses a sanitary product as a snack ever be thought of as heartfelt? Even weaving subplots about the pressures of higher learning and the estrangement of friends as the teen years give way to the minivan years, isn’t enough to take the edge off the crude attempts at humor that characterize this movie.
Add to that Teller’s motor-mouth mimicking of Vince Vaughn and characters who say, “Do you have a better idea?’ when, of course, there are a hundred better ideas than the thing they are about to do, and you get a charmless hour-and-a-half at the movies.