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Youth in Revolt Is An Amusing Love Story

Youth in Revolt
Directed by Miguel Arteta
Written by Gustin Nash based on the novel by C.D. Payne
Dimension, 2010

It didn’t take long for Michael Cera backlash to begin once Arrested Development established him as a prodigy in comic timing.  After the show’s cancellation, Cera appeared in Superbad and it looked like everyone was getting on board with his act.  But after Juno and Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Cera has been pigeon-holed into the ultra-sensitive teen role, playing essentially the same character over and over.  Youth in Revolt plays on that persona a bit. and probably should have allowed Cera to play his alter-ego more, but this is still a decent, funny flick.

Cera plays Nick Twisp, a virginal teen living in Oakland with his single mother (Jean Smart) who doesn’t exactly know how to pick good men.  She’s divorced from high-strung deadbeat dad George (Steve Buscemi), who is dating the way younger Lacey (Nick and Norah’s Ari Graynor), and is currently seeing the no-good Jerry (Zack Galifianakis).  After one of Jerry’s scams goes awry, they move to a trailer park for awhile, where Nick meets Sheeni Saunders (Portia Doubleday), a sweet girl with a naughty side who has bible-thumping parents (Mary Kay Place and M. Emmet Walsh).

Sheeni claims to be seeing the all-American preppy Trent (Jonathan B. Wright), but she and Nick begin a summer romance anyway.  When it comes time for Nick to leave the trailer park, Sheeni beckons Nick “to be bad” and cause trouble.  So, Nick creates a persona by the name of Francois Dillinger to do the bad things for him, including burning down half of Berkeley.  Ultimately, Nick has to win Sheeni’s heart and flee the police.

This movie has a number of funny moments, but it’s easy to see why it was released in the January wasteland.  Its pacing flags at times, there are numerous characters who come in and out of the picture and have little to do with the plot (Fred Willard’s political activist, Justin Long playing Sheeni’s brother, Aliens in America’s Adhir Kalyan as Nick’s new high school friend, etc).   It probably could have had a much better focus, as I mentioned earlier, this could have rocked with Francois dominating the picture for a good section, a sort of Fight Club for romantic comedies where you already know the secret.

But if you’re looking for something new to watch now that the holiday season is over, you can do much worse.  I recommend it.

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