21 – Kids, Study Your Math!

21     B-

Starring Jim Sturgess, Kevin Spacey, and Laurence Fishburne
Directed by Robert Luketic (Legally Blonde)
Rated PG-13 for some violence, and sexual content including partial nudity
Appropriate for ages 15+

The Story: Young Ben Campbell (Sturgess) is an MIT undergrad who happens to be a mathematical genius.  In order to pay for his upcoming Harvard Medical School tuition, he joins a team of blackjack players, led by professor Kevin Spacey, to try to use their math skills to take Vegas for millions of dollars.  Unfortunately for them, an eye-in-the-sky security agent (Fishburne) is on to their game and will try to stop them at all costs.

The Good: The first half of this film is just plain fun to watch.  The pacing is terrific and seeing the set up and the possibility of winning this big is thrilling.  It was apparent from the Beatles musical Across the Universe that Sturgess had something special, and he proves it here with another great performance. 

The Bad: The second half of the movie just flops.  Once the thrill of winning is over, the characters all start to make stupid decisions for the sake of drama and the unrealistic turn the film makes gets you rolling your eyes on many occasions.  While I haven’t read the true-story book that this movie was based on, Bringing Down the House, I have been told that the real-life events were nothing like what was put on film.  I guess that the real-life events weren’t as cinematic, but I wish the film didn’t feel so immature. 

The Summary: Just like blackjack, when they are winning the film is a blast, when they are losing the film gets tedious and trying.  Also just like blackjack, you can’t force yourself to leave the table till the show is over.