Youth in Revolt


Youth in Revolt

Even shades and a moustache can't make Michael Cera look dangerous.

(2009) Comedy (Dimension) Michael Cera, Portia Doubleday, Steve Buscemi, Ray Liotta, Justin Long, Jean Smart, Ari Graynor, Fred Willard, Zach Galifianakis, Mary Kay Place, Rooney Mara, Adhir Kalyan, M. Emmet Walsh.  Directed by Miguel Arteta

Growing up is hard enough when you are marching in lock-step with the crowd. If you are marching to your very own drumbeat, chances are it’s damn near impossible.

Nick Twisp (Cera) is a teenager in Oakland with the kind of family situation that makes you want to pull every sensory organ out of your head and stomp on them. His parents are divorced; Mom (Smart) has taken up with an unpredictable druggie (Galifianakis) who has run afoul of a group of sailors whom he sold a car to. He has run so afoul that he has thought the better part of valor was packing up his girlfriend and Nick and moving them to a trailer park in the middle of nowhere, California. Here he meets Sheeni (Doubleday), a young girl as quirky as he, someone who knows who Jean-Paul Belmondo is, and knows what it means to be hip in a conformist world.

His dad (Buscemi) is compensating with a much younger girlfriend (Graynor) and Nick prevails upon him to move into Sheeni’s complex, getting himself thrown out of his mom’s household for good measure. However, Sheeni doesn’t think Nick is dangerous enough. Nick invents an alter-ego (also Cera) with a wispy moustache, a smoking habit and who tends to give really bad advice that soon has Nick in trouble with the law, with his family and with Sheeni.

This is one of those coming of age stories (based on a novel, of course) that seems to have the idea that the more twisted and mixed up you are, the more interesting you become. The movie sat on the shelf for more than three years as Cera’s star grew brighter before it finally got a release. Even so, it milks the kind of character Cera has made a career out of playing; young, fey, sensitive, good-hearted and somewhat spineless. He has an easy manner of quipping and yet never seems to turn that intelligence into making his world a better place.

Doubleday makes a pretty nice romantic lead, except she doesn’t really pull off the quirkier aspects of her character well. She comes off therefore as a girl pretending to be hip rather than being actually hip, which matches up poorly with Cera’s character, who has the outer appearance of being hip without the inner self-confidence to pull it off.

Still, the movie is funny where it needs to be and quite frankly this is one of my favorite performances by Cera. It doesn’t hurt that he has a wealth of comic actors to work off of – from the established (Willard, Buscemi, Place) to the up-and-coming (Galifianakis, Graynor, Long – as Sheeni’s brother – and Kalyan, as Nick’s ethnic friend who may be even more of a dork than he is). The cast for the most part perform admirably, although some of the storyline just goes into ridiculous mode from the second half of the movie onwards.

It’s not a bad movie at all, and despite my low regard for hip indie coming of age movies about quirky teens who are hipper than thou, managed to reel me in thanks to some nice supporting performances (particularly from Buscemi, Willard and Galifianakis) and some good, solid laughs. What more can you ask from a comedy?

WHY RENT THIS: Well-written dialogue and some funny situations. A very strong supporting cast comes up aces.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Michael Cera is far too one-note an actor to be playing two characters.

FAMILY VALUES: There’s plenty of foul language, quite a bit of sexual content and some drug use.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The man who sells Jerry the camper is none other than Michael Collins, the Apollo 11 astronaut who was in the command module while Armstrong and Aldrin got all the glory.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: None listed.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $19.7M on an $18M production budget; the movie was a flop.

FINAL RATING: 6/10

TOMORROW: The Ghost Writer

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New Releases for the Week of January 8, 2010


New Releases for January 8, 2010

Amy Adams decides to pack up her things and head for a movie where an Oscar nomination is at least possible.

LEAP YEAR

(Universal) Amy Adams, Matthew Goode, Adam Scott, John Lithgow, Noel O’Donovan, Tony Rohr, Pat Laffan, Alan Devlin. Directed by Anand Tucker

A young woman tires of waiting for her commitment-phobic boyfriend to propose to her. She discovers an old Irish tradition that allows for a woman to propose to a man on Leap Day and, lo and behold, he is going to be in Dublin on Leap Day. She hops on a plane, expecting to be there in plenty of time, but bad airplanes, bad weather and bad luck conspire to strand her on the other side of the Emerald Isle. She enlists the help of a studly local to get her to Dublin on time which paves the way for much bickering, and anybody who’s ever seen a Hollywood romantic comedy knows what that leads to.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Rating: PG (for sensuality and language)

Broken Embraces

(Sony Classics) Penelope Cruz, Lluis Homar, Blanca Portilla, Rossy de Palma. Legendary Spanish director returns with his latest movie, a thriller about a writer and former movie director who is blinded in a car crash that also takes the life of his lover. Devastated, he adopts the pseudonym that he had been using as a writer and leaves his real name, which he had used as a director, to die in the car crash. Fourteen years later, he is moved to tell the story of his tribulations to a young man who has also been injured in a car crash, and the story moves from being mere entertainment to pass the time to something much deeper…and darker.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Rating: R (for sexual content, language and some drug material)

Daybreakers

(Lionsgate) Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill, Claudia Karvan. When a plague turns the majority of the human population into vampires (take that, Edward Cullen!) the shrinking human population must be captured and farmed for blood. As their food supply dwindles, a substitute for human blood must be found. However, a covert group of vampires discovers something remarkable, something that might just save the human race from extinction.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Rating: R (for strong bloody violence, language and brief nudity)

The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus

(Sony Classics) Heath Ledger, Christopher Plummer, Tom Waits, Johnny Depp. Director Terry Gilliam once again creates a unique and imaginative fantasy. Dr. Parnassus, the owner of a travelling show, carries with him a dark and terrible secret; he made a deal with the devil for immortality in exchange for the soul of his firstborn when she reaches her 16th birthday. With that date rapidly approaching, Dr. Parnassus renegotiates the deal; the first of the two of them to seduce five souls wins. The good doctor must use every trick up his sleeve to save the soul of his precious daughter. This was Ledger’s last movie before his tragic passing; he had only partially completed filming. The movie was re-written, allowing several actors – including Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell – to fill the role for the rest of the action.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Rating: PG-13 (for violent images, some sensuality, language and smoking)

Youth in Revolt

(Dimension) Michael Cera, Portia Doubleday, Ray Liotta, Steve Buscemi. A somewhat mousy young man falls in love with a free-spirited girl during a family vacation. With geography, family and the girl’s ex-boyfriends all conspiring against him, he decides (with the encouragement of the object of his affections) to create a worldly alter-ego that she can truly fall for. However, the new him goes hopelessly out of control, leading to mayhem and just maybe, love.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Rating: R (for sexual content, language and drug use)