So this is my first $19.99 Video On Demand rental! And to be real, on THE KING OF STATEN ISLAND, it was totally worth it! Not because a bunch of people are watching it and I’m getting paid back a little, but because it is more than a decent movie. Don’t worry, it’s not the ‘king’ of 2020 so far, that still goes to Onward, but its close. And I’ve heard people saying that if you don’t like Pete Davidson that you won’t like this movie. That’s not true at all. Pete Davidson doesn’t entirely play himself in this movie, on SNL you can tell he’s much more sarcastic, down to Earth, and much more depressing. Here, he has a character arc, and he pulls it off realistically. Granted, if you don’t like Pete Davidson’s face you might not like this movie, although they do make fun of it (won’t spoil the great line), but if its just his personality stopping you from watching this, get over it. The movie is more than just him. Especially if you are a fan of the comedian, the great, Bill Burr. The King of Staten Island isn’t Judd Apatow’s best movie, that still goes to Knocked Up and 40 Year Old Virgin, but it’s right under those, and it is his most mature. This movie is more of a drama with some funny bits thrown in than it is a complete straight stoner comedy. Also, while Apatow’s other movies are light, bright & look comedic, Apatow used a different cinematographer this time, and the tone felt more down to Earth and gritty. After this, Judd Apatow can consider himself this generations John Hughes, a great comedic director but now mastering the little dramatic parts of it all. In other words, this is his Breakfast Club.
Per IMDB, The King of Staten Island is about a 24 year old named “Scott and he has been a case of arrested development since his firefighter dad died. He spends his days smoking weed and dreaming of being a tattoo artist until events force him to grapple with his grief and take his first steps forward in life.” And while the film might be too long at 2 hrs and 15 minutes (most Judd Apatow films are because he just can’t bring himself to make a deleted scene a deleted scene) and while I could’ve maybe chopped enough to make it an even 2 hrs, I didn’t really feel it. Most of the scenes were necessary for Scott’s arc. And I loved that they kept the whole story down to Earth. I wonder if at any point in writing the film that they put him getting into some kind of big nightly/weekly improv show gig (SNL). I’m glad they didn’t. It felt more realistic and it probably wouldn’t have fit so well with the rest of the story. That aspect of his real life would’ve been too fantastical and the character might have come out of it not learning anything and not expecting any consequences since life is handing him opportunities on a platter. I’m also thankful for not having an Ariana Grande like character in it as well. Instead, his love interest in the film, played by Bel Powley, actually already has life ambitions, loves her city and wants to make it better, even though her Brooklyn accent is like nails on a chalkboard (but I feel like it was supposed to be for laughs for the character). Marisa Tomei is also in it as his mom, and even though she just recently came out saying that she regrets playing all these mom characters because she doesn’t want to get typecast, she is good in this, even though she only has a small handful of scenes.
The real MVP, other than Davidson not quite being his 100% self, is comedian Bill Burr. He steals every scene he is in and I didn’t see him as ‘Bill Burr’ in this. It was quite the transformation. If you don’t like Davidson, and you love him, I would take the plunge and watch this anyway just for him alone. He’s that good. With the film being so long, and the plot a little thin, other than being another coming of age and maturing tale, it might take you a bit to see what the overarching film is about. But once it finally clicks, about half way in, you can see how the movie is narrative wise perfectly structured, even at its massive length. And the second half of the movie is much much better than the first half. So if you start it and it feels a little slow, don’t worry, it picks up not even a 1/4th of the way in. All in all, I just really enjoyed it. I enjoy most of Judd Apatow’s films though, with the exception of Funny People. That movie didn’t get the drama and comedy tone right and kind of made Seth Rogen’s character just a “background character” halfway through that film. That was that movie’s biggest flaw. If this movie has a flaw, it’s just its length and not much else. The film looks more gritty, mature, and life like than Judd Apatow’s previous comedic efforts. This all just points to one thing: Pete Davidson is this generation’s Adam Sandler. Davidson is great in roles that are tailor made for him (but his range is still quite small), but I pray to God that he doesn’t sign a deal with Netflix and starts to do really stupid shit. But his next film is The Suicide Squad with James Gunn, so I have a feeling that he knows how to avoid that fork in the road and not become the ‘king’ of Netflix Comedic Trash.
My ranking of Judd Apatow (director) movies:
- Knocked Up
- The 40 Year Old Virgin
- The King of Staten Island
- This Is 40
- Funny People