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Barbie Izquierdo and her children in “A Place at the Table,” a documentary about hunger in rural America.

Magnolia Pictures ,

Miles Teller and Skylar Astin in the comedy “21 & Over.”

Relativity Media ,

Reviewed in brief: "A Place at the Table,” "21 and Over”

  • Wire services
  • February 28, 2013 - 2:18 PM

A PLACE AT

THE TABLE

⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars

Rating: PG for thematic elements and brief mild language

Theater: Uptown

“A Place at the Table” is a well-reported and devastating look at hunger in rural America. Deftly combining portraits of families lacking food security, expert interviews and infographics, the film by co-directors Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush opens eyes, minds and hearts. Raj Patel, author of “Stuffed and Starved,” addresses the paradoxical link between malnutrition and obesity, both signs that poor people can’t afford food they need to stay healthy. Experts detail the problem’s connection to agricultural policy, what we subsidize (commodity crop ingredients in processed foods) and what we don’t (whole grains, fruits and vegetables).

The film also digs deep into the stories of dignified, persevering, often hardworking but underpaid people dependent on charity food banks for their next meal. It evenhandedly addresses America’s emotional and ideological tug of war between wishing to help the less fortunate and worrying that someone might be getting a free ride. Throughout, it offers resonant landscape images of a country so fertile it could easily feed its own population abundantly if national priorities favored that outcome.

21 & over

⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars

Rating: R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, some graphic nudity, drugs and drinking.

Here is a youth comedy that is leering, offensive, politically incorrect, at times even disgusting, and yet not a bummer. In fact, those who stick with it to the end may find “21 & Over” one of the more appealing movies of the season. Written and directed by “The Hangover” co-writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, it’s brought off with a crazed, chaotic energy that absolves most of its sins.

To celebrate the 21st birthday of their pal, Jeff Chang (Justin Chon), a workaholic pre-med student, his wild-man pal Miller (Miles Teller) and buttoned-down buddy Casey (Skylar Astin) arrange a pub crawl. Knowing their friend has a crucial internship interview the next morning, they promise to keep it safe and sane. He screws up: He trusts them. The celebration turns into a bender of Australian proportions. Jeff Chang (he is always called by both names) drinks himself psychotic and passes out. Miller and Casey drag the limp birthday boy across the hard-partying college town in a fruitless search for his apartment. En route they run afoul of a hyperaggressive pep squad captain, enrage a Latina girl gang, start a buffalo stampede, throw comatose Jeff Chang off two roofs and commit a hodgepodge of felonies. You root for them nevertheless because the actors are likable, the mayhem is cartoonishly overblown, there’s a nice undercurrent of believable friendship and the pace never slackens long enough for your thoughts to turn judgmental. It’s a cheerful jolt of Grade-A idiocy.

ccovert@startribune.com

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