From Stacie Hougland: Most of us leave the blackjack table with lighter pockets and a darker disposition. Not so the kids in 21, a movie I didn't expect to like, because let's face it: watching grass grow is more exciting than watching people play cards in the movies (see Rounders, The Cooler). This one, though, based on a real-life story about some MIT students who rocked the house by counting cards and trading signals, keeps the pace quick and light with a plot that's mostly implausible but pleasurable to watch anyway.
Based on the best-selling novel Bringing Down the House, the movie stars Jim Sturgess as Ben, a brilliant yet dissatisfied MIT senior lured into a secret card-counting club by his professor (Kevin Spacey, in a particularly scenery-masticating turn). They hit Vegas on the weekends with fake IDs and a mission, and once Ben gets the $300,000 he needs for Harvard Med School, he's tempted to quit. But, as in all Hollywood movies, greed takes over and the group comes under scrutiny by Agent Williams (Laurence Fishburne).
Extras: The 2-disc release includes the movie with optional commentary by the director and two producers, but none of the stars (particularly noticeable is Kevin Spacey's absence, since he served as star and producer). The second disc offers up some fairly intriguing extras, like "The Advantage Player," in which the actors explain blackjack's history and how to count cards like they do in the movie. "Basic Strategy: A Complete Film Journal" includes an interview with the book's author and one of the real-life MIT students he chronicled. There's also a bonus digital copy of the film and a preview of the upcoming movie The House Bunny.
Overview: If you can get past the plot holes and star Jim Strugess's rather unbelievable transformation from math geek to ultracool hustler, it's a light, breezy, entertaining rental.