Youth in Revolt (2009)

Michael Cera is notorious for playing the same character time after time, and indeed, his initial character in Miguel Arteta’s Youth in Revolt follows suit. The defining feature of this raunchy romantic comedy is that Cera’s character creates an alter-ego, French bad-boy “Francois”, ensuring that he’d at least have to try to act differently.

The experiment worked and the result is very enjoyable. Cera’s real character, Nick Twisp, is an intellectual high schooler who is obsessed with the idea of losing his virginity. It’s Cera’s comfortable zone and it’s pretty clear that Cera’s been cautious of approaching different roles because he knows he’s so good at what he does. Coupled with the love of his life Sheenie, played by newcomer Portia Doubleday, Nick becomes a refreshing character, since the two of them are able to simultaneously have intellectual interests as well as carnal lusting.

Nick’s alter ego is Francois Dillinger. What’s nice about Cera doing duo roles is that he devotes his entirety to being a different character. Francois walks differently and holds himself differently. His mannerisms are distinct from Cera’s, and of course his voice and the things he says are disparate too. Whenever Francois is on screen, there are laughs to be had.

Unfortunately, he’s not really around as much as you’d expect from the trailers. In fact, this movie has the most deceptive trailers that I’ve seen lately. It implies a different causality for the creation of Francois than what happens, and makes it look like Francois would be the central plotline, when really his screentime makes his plot nearly secondary. The worst disservice the trailer does to the film is make it look like it should be a laugh-a-minute comedy, when really the film is  more complex than that.

There are still plenty of funny parts throughout the movie. Francois has the most, but a strong supporting cast keeps them coming as well. Fred Willard plays his usual role, an eccentric and genial older male, as Cera’s next-door neighbor. Steve Buscemi brings a dirtbag-type humor to a small role not written for comedic results from anyone but him. Adhir Kalyan has a small but memorable role, and Zach Galifianakis is around for a little bit, if you’re into his type of facetious humor.

The movie doesn’t only offer humor, but also something rare in most comedies today – intelligence, even while being raunchy and exploring its ‘R’ rating. Francois has some delightfully scandalous lines and characters speak with realistic obscenity. The chemistry between Cera and Doubleday also comes off as very sincere, and their straightforward feelings for each other makes their romance an easy one to root for. While it may not be the funniest comedy of its type, it certainly strikes the best chord of humor, heart, and wit.

I enjoyed most of the movie, except for a few scenes that seemed to just lay down generic plot material, and the few out of place animation sequences that included such unfunny sight gags as felt puppet birds having sex. Many going into it expecting it to be the new funniest movie may be disappointed, but if they don’t like it then they’re overlooking the sentiments that the movie uniquely has.

Final rating: 7/10

–James A. Janisse





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