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Youth In Revolt
**1/2 out of ****
Spill Rating: MATINEE!
Out of all the stars in Hollywood, Michael Cera is the most perplexing. The kid's personality is dull, he has no muscle, and doesn't have amazing looks. However, over the last few years, his career has skyrocketed. After his break-out debut in Arrested Development, his starring roles in Juno, Superbad, Paper Heart, Year One, and Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist cemented him as one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. After thinking about it for months, I think I finally realized why he's so popular.
He represents the average teenager. Awkward, nervous and secluded. All of the films he's been in have his character reaching adulthood by growing up and hooking up with women. His lack of a true personality and star-presence is counter-acted by the huge teenage audience that is similar to him. Youth In Revolt proves that statement.
Nick Twisp (Michael Cera) lives a dull life with his cougar mother, Estelle (Jean Smart), and her truck-driving boyfriend, Jerry (Zach Galifianakis). When Jerry manages to piss off a group of sailors, Jerry takes the family to hide out in a trailer park until the coast is clear. Nick remains miserable as usual until he meets Sheeni (Portia Doubleday). She's everything he's been looking for and they immediately form a close relationship.
But Nick's romanticized vision is shattered when he discovers that Sheeni is dating French jock Trent (Jonathan B. Wright). Now that he has to fight to love, Nick goes to extreme lengths to secure Sheeni's love, even creating an alter ego for himself, François Dillinger. As a chain-smoking Frenchman sporting a very cheesy mustache, his alter-ego turns out to be as dangerous as love itself.
Youth In Revolt contains many of the same themes in Superbad, and Paper Heart. In this film, Nick learns that in order to get his true love, he has to stop being a self-secluded teenager and actually engage in conversation with the opposite sex. This is both a coming of age story and a cautionary tale about the lengths some people go to get women. Many teenagers feel alone and when they meet a girl they actually like, they'll do anything to have them. Its only until something bad happens that they realize that women aren't everything and the most important thing to attract women's attention is to be yourself.
This isn't exactly the most original concept but the alter-ego Nick creates in Francois Dillinger throws a very welcome twist in. Unfortunately, what was supposed to be the big selling point in the film is hardly in it at all. While the alter-ego does drive the film forward, its never really delved into enough to make much of an impact. Is Nick crazy? Is it all in his head? Did he really change his look into Francois? The other problem with this is that his supposedly bad side is not intimidating at all. Michael Cera is such a small kid that I didn't buy him as a bad boy. Even when he starts creating fires and launching cars off of cliffs, it just felt like Michael Cera was trying way too hard to seperate himself from his established persona. It isn't downright bad, but its definitely brings the film's main twist down a notch.
There are many funny sequences in the movie and there is a lot of heart that is missing from comedies nowadays. There weren't many laugh-out-loud scenes but I was consistently chuckling throughout. The surprising thing was that the small roles played by Steve Buscemi, Ray Liotta, and Zach Galifianakis were more drama oriented than comedic characters. This wasn't necessarily a bad thing; I just thing that the film could have been twice as funny if these actors were given more comedic dialogue.
In all honesty, Michael Cera does well in the role. He perfectly nails the awkward teenager role so well to a fault and does show some range. The smaller roles played by Buscemi, Liotta, and Gilifanakis are memorable despite the lack of comedy involved. The real winner her is Portia Doubleday. Not only is she funny, there is also a great blend of sexiness and acting ability which will help her get some roles down the line.
Youth In Revolt is a funny, warm-hearted film that doesn't quite nail what it was aiming for. The alter-ego plot-line is never taken advantage of and some weirdly place animated sequences took me out of the film. For a R-rated sex comedy, this may not be the funniest but it definetely has the most heart.