March 15, 2008 by  

21


21

Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess) works his magic at the Blackjack table in Las Vegas in "21."

Starring: Jim Sturgess, Kevin Spacey, Kate Bosworth
Directed by: Robert Luketic (“Legally Blonde”)
Written by: Peter Steinfeld (“Be Cool”), Allen Loeb (“Things We Lost in the Fire”)

It might be based on a true story, but somewhere in its two hours of drawn out card tricks and casino hopping, “21” gets so unrealistic and immature it busts.

This just might actually be how director Robert Luketic likes to work. He did the same with Reese Witherspoon in “Legally Blonde” and no one can forget the insanely childish and unfunny slapping scene between Jane Fonda and Jennifer Lopez in “Monster-in-Law.” Sure, we might believe that a sorority girl with no law experience could be accepted to Harvard or that an in-law could purposely destroy her son’s relationship out of spite for his detested fiancée, but Luketic always seems to cross the line into lunacy.

He does the same with “21.” Based on the book “Bringing Down the House,” “21” is the story of a group of six MIT geniuses who, with the expertise of their professor, learn how to count cards in blackjack and win millions on the weekends in Las Vegas with just enough time to get back for class Monday morning.

First, we meet the innocent Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess), a prospective Harvard Medical School student who has worked his entire life to reach the academic success that could possibly put him on the road to becoming a doctor. The problem is that Ben, despite his $8-an-hour job selling suits at a men’s retail store, cannot come up with the $300,000 tuition to the Ivy League without earning a very competitive scholarship that he probably won’t get.

When he is introduced to the world of counting cards, however, Ben, sees a “means to an end” of his financial situation. With the guidance of Professor Mickey Rosa (Kevin Spacey), he and his new friends, including the pretty Jill Taylor (Kate Bosworth), hone their blackjack skills, become “gambling” pros, and set off to Vegas with little to worry about except what they will order from room service in their high-roller suites.

Of course, where there’s money there’s power and when power begins to switch hands within the group, things become testy between Mickey and his minions. Along with the inner turmoil between team members, Cole Williams (Lawrence Fishburne), one of the casino’s security heads has become ever-so suspicious of Ben and his buddies because of the amount of money they are raking in during their weekly visits.

Devoid of any real exciting card playing moments or memorable scenes in Vegas (the girls on the team do stick their heads out of the limo’s moon roof at one point), “21” becomes predictable and cliché from the rise and fall of the main hero to the obvious plot twists and payoff.

Stick to pinochle with your granny on a Sunday afternoon. At least you might get some milk and cookies out of that deal.

Grade: C

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