It seems to be the cool thing to do to hate on Michael Cera these days. Everywhere I turn, the poor kid is lambasted as the most typecast actor in Hollywood, and that his “awkward teen” schtick has long since gotten old.
I’ve always been one to disagree. Yes, I believe Cera is firmly one-note, but in every movie I’ve seen him in since Arrested Development, he has consistently made me laugh. Superbad, Juno, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist are all pretty damn good movies, and hell, he was even the only funny part of Year One.
But I’m sad to say that Youth in Revolt is where I have to draw the line, as Cera’s Nick is unlikable and unfunny, though I believe this is mostly due to the script, rather than Cera, as it appears to be written by Diablo Cody had she gone to Yale instead of dancing in a strip club.
The movie is permeated with a dialect that no one speaks. It’s kind of an elitist, cultured high speech that tries to pass itself off as teenage sarcasm and wit. If it were only spoken by one character, it might be a fun quirk, but when the majority of the cast is spouting nonsense left and right, it gets exhausting. Teenagers are not familiar with French jazz singers from the forties, they do no write futurist percussion poetry, and to pretend they do is not only annoying, it’s downright dumb.
Nick is a lonely lad who one day finds the love of his life in the form of Sheeni Saunders (Portia Doubleday), a free-spirited girl who talks just as strangely as he does, and as they say in 500 Days of Summer, “likes all the same bizarro-crap” as him, and therefore, they must be soulmates.
The problem is, Sheeni has a boyfriend who is a superjock and also writes aforementioned futurist poetry. But this isn’t THAT much of a problem, as Sheeni is content to lock lips with Nick for the summer, but ultimately decides that he’s too tame to warrant anything past a fling.
Nick is shot through the heart, and vows to become a rebel to win Sheeni’s affection. This involves splitting his psyche in half, creating a persona who will do all the bad things he won’t. His name? Francois Dillinger, and he and Nick start hatching plans as to just how many fires they need to set in order to prove their love to Sheeni.
I’m blinded by the awesome special effects!
The character of Francois Dillinger is perhaps the most perplexing part of the film. He should provide some of the movie’s best laughs, as Michael Cera acting like a badass while wearing a pedophile’s mustache is comical no matter how you slice it. But rather he just raises the question of why he’s there at all.
I’m not quite sure as to why the film couldn’t just have Cera decide to go all Grand Theft Auto III by himself, if this “persona” they introduce has a microscopic amount of screen time. Dillinger pops up near the middle of the film, and only has a few select cameos by the end. There are stretches where he disappears for so long, you’re surprised when he strolls in again because it’s been so damn long since you’ve seen him.
But you need more than one extraneous character in your movies, never fear, Youth in Revolt is full of them. There is a massive army of one-note roles in this film, and you can pick and choose as to which you think are the most fleeting. It’s one of those movies that tries to pack in cameos to make you stop and say “oh look!” but is content with leaving their roles at little more than a handful of lines. You’ll see Steve Buschemi, Zach Galifianakis, Fred Willard, Ray Liotta, and Justin Long, but I’ll be damned if any of them stay around for more than three minutes.
I’m sorry, but I won’t actually have time to learn your name.
The plot of Youth in Revolt meanders aimlessly for an hour and half, so much so that it feels like ages. Sheeni’s feeling towards Nick fluctuate on an consistently random basis, and I feel like they could have gone so much further with the split persona and mass destruction concepts they laid out in the film. Outside of one accidental fire, and a car going off a cliff, there’s very little destruction to be had, and I feel like a better film could have gone all the way with it to make a truly absurd and enjoyable movie.
Instead what we have is just safe. It’s a film content that it’s clever dialog and funny cameos will keep the audience entertained, so much so that it feels it doesn’t need to concern itself with a pressing plot or complex characters. It’s not Youth in Revolt, it’s just Youth Acting Out, and that’s not nearly fun enough.
2 out of 5 stars
Is that you Lt. Dangle?