By Jeremy Martin
I don’t want to be one of those alarmist film critics always telling you how to live but, seriously, we are rapidly depleting the world’s supply of teenage sex comedies.
Our creation of new gags when the old ones are still good—the uncomfortably realistic masturbation scenes, the wacky coitus interruptus—can only be labeled as conspicuous consumption. If we don’t stop soon, there may be no boner jokes left for our children’s children.
Youth in Revolt, the latest cinematic chronicle of a loser’s epic battle with his cherry, inevitably repeats most of the above scenes and burns through a few more tropes from Hollywood’s endangered-cliché list: the horny Indian guy, unintentional drug use by the elderly/uptight, overly clever dialogue from high-school kids and Michael Cera acting painfully, sweetly gawky. Revolt director Miguel Arteta recasts several of these well-worn elements for a film that’s not completely unexpected, but different enough.
As Sinatra-loving, foreign-film-renting Oakland teen Nick Twisp, Cera is having his usual troubles getting laid—or, for that matter, even interacting normally with anyone his own age. Worse, his rundown mom (Jean Smart) and her redneck, truck-driving boyfriend Jerry (Zach Galifianakis) have enough loud, obvious sex to convince him he’s the only virgin in the world.
During a temporary move to Ukiah, Calif., Nick meets Francophile and potential soul mate/girl-to-put-his-thing-in Sheeni (Portia Doubleday), a port blocked by an alpha-male boyfriend and ultra-religious parents.
Their courtship follows the slow discursive route of the foreign films they idolize with awkward conversations—not awkward as in full of blushing embarrassments, but awkward as in full of uncomfortable pauses and dull comments—in real time, and Nick winds up heading back to Oakland before she’s made him a man. The two hatch a plan to get Nick back to Ukiah: Sheeni will find his dad (Steve Buscemi) a job nearby, and Nick will become a juvenile delinquent bad enough to get his mom to pawn him off on his father.
In order to be bad, Nick invents an alter ego for himself, Francois Dillinger, a cigarette-puffing Eurotrash troublemaker with a seedy sex-offender mustache. Francois leads Nick to misdeeds that quickly escalate to felonies.
That this is ultimately The Cera Show makes Revolt’s absolutely incredible cast list seems gratuitous and, in such company, Cera’s limitations are pretty obvious.
He does fine in the double role, but as the extremes his character goes to grow increasingly antiheroic, it becomes obvious Cera is too likeable to pull it off.
But maybe, at a time when three Van Wilders and seven (that’s right, seven) American Pies threaten to drain our teenage pussy-hound reserves dry, recycled gags in a new package are about the best for which we can responsibly ask.
Youth In Revolt
Directed by Miguel Arteta
With Michael Cera, Portia Doubleday, Jean Smart, Steve Buscemi, Ray Liotta and Zach Galifianakis
Dreamcatcher, Regal Stadium 14