Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Sexual Content, Language and Drug Use
Directed by: Miguel Arteta
Written by: Gustin Nash
(based on the novel YOUTH IN REVOLT by C.D. Payne)
Starring: Michael Cera, Portia Doubleday, Jean Smart, Mary Kay Place, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Long, Ray Liotta, Steve Buscemi, M. Emmet Walsh, Jonathan Bradford Wright, Erik Knudson, Fred Willard & Rooney Mara
YOUTH IN REVOLT is a lesser known movie featuring Michael Cera as an awkward teenager. Granted Cera has made this kind of role work in other films, namely SUPERBAD or SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD (his best film yet). The only real difference with YOUTH IN REVOLT is that it’s based on a novel and features a ton of big names in the cast. Ironically, this is also a very flat, stale, and uninteresting piece of work.
Nick Twisp (Cera) is living a stressful existence. He’s a cultured, intelligent young man and also a virgin. It seems like all the jerks around him have girlfriends. His mother is a piece of white trash dating a pathological liar and his father is a neglectful creep dating a 25-year-old hottie. As Nick states, it’s aggravating how many people around him are getting action. It isn’t until he moves to a trailer park for a week that he runs across Sheeni Saunders, who takes an immediate interest in him. The two of them fall fast in love, but when the struggles of life makes things difficult to stay together, Nick finds that he must become a rebel (in the form of an alter-ego named Francois Dillinger) to win her heart.
There is a lot of ground this story covers in the ever-present difficulties that get in the way of Nick and Sheeni’s romance. Seeing as the film is a mere 90 minutes long (counting credits), things move at a super rushed pace. It’s annoying how fast the film goes and it left barely any time for anything to develop enough for me to care as a viewer. There were moments of stylized storytelling that I appreciated. From the credits sequence to a few montages, the film incorporates animation of differing styles. This element actually worked quite well and somewhat set it apart from being just another teenage comedy in that respect.
Most of the flaws come with the characters. Michael Cera’s voiceover at the beginning the film made me feel like this might turn out to be an underrated gem. The introduction of each character is funny enough and there was plenty of potential to be realized for most of them. However, not much is done with any of these colorful people. Big name actors are wasted as popping up in two or three scenes and then forgotten without any further notice. Steve Buscemi takes on the role of Nick’s neglectful father and just doesn’t get to do much with it. Another potentially fun character, Ray Liotta as a cop, is wasted. He could have been one of the best characters in the film and winds up in about 5 minutes of screen time.
You may notice that I’m neglecting to mention the two leads. That’s because neither of them give anything spectacular. Portia Doubleday just comes off as a bland love interest and the viewer isn’t given much reason to care about her, thanks to most of their romance being shown in a few forgettable scenes and a brief montage. Michael Cera plays the socially inept teenager. We’ve seen him play it before and he plays it again here. There isn’t any charm to the character of Nick Twisp and it makes for a pretty empty experience altogether.
YOUTH IN REVOLT relies on jokes that almost always fall flat, a plot that we’ve seen many times before, and a big name cast that aren’t given much to do. As a romance, it’s hollow. It doesn’t work as a coming-of-age tale either. As a comedy, I didn’t laugh more than five times. There is a certain style to the film that sets it apart from being terrible, but it’s not good or even middle-of-the-road either. It’s just disappointing, bland, and should remain forgotten. Don’t waste your time on this one.