by CJ Forrest
One week into 2010 and we’ve already got a vampire flick and a coming of age teen angst comedy battling for box office glory. Sounds a lot like what we saw in 2009 huh? Well, let’s stick with what works I guess. Michael Cera brings us another awkward, yet quick witted teen vying for the heart of the girl of his dreams in Youth in Revolt.
Nick Twisp (Michael Cera), is a lonely, sex-obsessed 16 year-old virgin who meets the girl of his dreams, Sheeni Saunders (Portia Doubleday), while vacationing at a trailer park. Nick’s immediately smitten by the lovely lady, both for her beauty and intelligence. Though she claims to have a boyfriend, Nick slowly works his way into her heart. However just as things start looking up for Nick, his vacation is cut short and he’s forced to go back home with his mother (Jean Smart) and her slob of a boyfriend (Zach Galifianakis).
Sheeni makes Nick promise to act bad when he gets back home so he can get thrown out of the house and return to her. Also she has a thing for bad guys, mainly French ones. Thus Nick has no other choice but to create a split personality named Francois Dillinger, a chain smoking bad boy/playboy who looks identical to Nick except he talks in a deep voice, sports a wispy mustache, and wears aviator shades. Francois’ job is to raise hell and to help Nick impress the woman he loves.
The plot of this film is insane and that’s exactly what I was hoping for. Unfortunately it also doesn’t make any sense. The motivations behind any of Sheeni’s actions are a complete mystery to me. It really hurts the film because the audience never knows what kind of girl Sheeni is. She falls in love with Nick for who he is early on in the film and things are great between the two. Then she gives a speech about how he should become a bad boy and Nick suddenly creates a psycho bad boy personality out of nowhere. It’s a bit excessive to say the least and it’s not too long until Nick’s alter ego has made him a wanted man with local police. The plot is a mess!
Luckily for the film Francois is by far the best character, so I don’t care why he’s in the movie. I’m just glad he’s there because everything out of his mouth is comedy gold. Cera really lets himself loose playing Francois and I almost wish the character would’ve just gotten his own movie. He doesn’t though and Francois simply isn’t in the movie enough.
The film has a talented comedic cast who all have their moment to shine, but in the end they are all a bit wasted. Justin Long, Ray Liotta, Fred Willard, and Steve Buscemi. That’s one heck of a lineup. Yes the film has its funny moments and a few good comedic set pieces but it should’ve been so much more. The book it’s based on is regarded as a raunchy classic, but the film version, even for all its insanity, still feels neutered.
I also need to make a point that the apparent villain of the film, Sheeni’s boyfriend Trent (Jonathan B. Wright), isn’t even seen until the last 20 minutes. To make matters worse, Trent is the second best character in the movie. His line delivery is identical to Cera’s and he’s essentially the handsome, successful version of Nick. He’s an amazing villain and it really says something that I like the Trent character so much even though he’s barely in the film.
Messy plot aside, Youth in Revolt is still a wacky, sometimes hilarious comedy that’s bolstered by the tremendous comedic chops of its cast. Cera’s great at his distinct brand of comedy but he also shows he still has a few tricks up his sleeve with his ingenious Francois character. The talented cast really help elevate the material, but you still end up disappointed at what could’ve been. I wish I could’ve rooted for Nick to win Sheeni’s heart, but instead I’m just left wondering why he even likes her.