Reviews For The Uneasily Quarantined:
The King Of Staten Island

Title: The King of Staten Island

Describe This Movie In One Simpsons Quote:

NED FLANDERS: But, Reverend, I need to know. Is God punishing me?
REVEREND LOVEJOY: Oh ... short answer: "yes" with an "if." Long answer: "no" with a "but."
Brief Plot Synopsis: Slacker lacks track.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: 2.5 Captain Colds out of 5.

Tagline: n/a

Better Tagline: "Pete Davidson is back. Too bad Judd Apatow's got him."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: High school dropout Scott Carlin's (Pete Davidson) life has been in something of a tailspin since the death of his firefighter father 17 years ago. He still lives with his mom, Margie (Marisa Tomei) and spends the bulk of his days smoking pot with his friends and dreaming of opening a "tattoo restaurant." But while he's treading water, his sister Claire (Maude Apatow) is heading to college. Meanwhile, more unwelcome news arrives in the form of Margie's new suitor, Ray (Bill Burr).

"Critical" Analysis: Judd Apatow's films achieve some of their greatest impact when they focus on the interstitial periods in their characters' lives. The problem with his latest, The King of Staten Island, is how much time he spends there. When the first two-thirds of your movie dwell on awkward conversations and table setting, it's hard to engage when things finally start to move.

As a star vehicle for SNL's Pete Davidson, TKOSI obviously depends on the young comedian to carry the weight. The extent to which you believe he succeeds will depend a lot on how much you like his shtick. The guy gets a lot of grief, some of it unwarranted (his personal life), some deserved (giving Dan Crenshaw a national stage), but the first 90 minutes are little more than Davidson playing himself, with all that entails.

Fortunately, his co-stars step up in a big way. In stand-up comedian Burr's case, (maybe) surprisingly so. But Tomei is predictably great, and Steve Buscemi takes the reins in the third act as a veteran firefighter who knew Scott's dad, which helps guide this meandering ship to shore.

Every Apatow movie is in some sense about the lead's arrested development, and you couldn't find a better poster child for that than Davidson. But is a 2 hour and 17 minute movie really required to chart Scott's personal growth? It's hard to emphasize this enough, but we spend an interminable amount of time "getting to know" Scott in a series of scenes that easily could've been cut in half.

Maybe this wouldn't matter as much if "before" Scott wasn't A) a raging prick to his mother, and B) an indifferent asshole to his quasi-girlfriend Kelsey, all while meandering through life in a haze of bong smoke and self-pity. Less experienced filmmakers could have established these bona fides in half the time.

Worst of all, The King of Staten Island just isn't that funny. Apatow has always found success with putting his main characters in improbably hilarious scenarios (the chest waxing in The 40-Year Old Virgin, etc.), TKOSI takes this to absurdity by presenting the restaurant where Scott buses tables as a place where staff is forced to fight each other for tips.

Or maybe Staten Island is really as bad as What We Do in the Shadows suggests.

The film's last act, in which Scott comes to terms with his father's legacy and his own issues, finally allows the character to mature and Davidson to sink his teeth into the role, but you have to wade through a nigh intolerable amount of self-indulgent bullshit to get there.

The King of Staten Island is available on video on demand.
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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar