Sometimes you look at a movie poster and you think to yourself, yep, that’s going to be great. So much time and effort has gone into encapsulating the ethos of a 90 minute movie and representing that theme and those ideals in a still format. And what about that tagline? Doesn’t that just drill to my very soul, make me question truths I once held dear? Wow. I’m certainly going to look forward to that movie.

And sometimes you just think, mneh.

Casting your eyes to the right for a moment, it’s hard to imagine a less imaginative effort to help publicise the new Michael Cera release. Let’s see, now. We have a half-assed cartoony drawing of the young man in question with something of an enigmatic smile that isn’t quite transferred to his eyes. We also have a tagline of Every “Revolution” Needs A Leader, which after seeing the film I can announce has precisely NOTHING to do with anything I just watched.

Not one to be put off, and because The Road still isn’t showing in Stirling, I went along anyway.

You can be sure of a few things in a Michael Cera film; namely a wheelbarrow full of quirkiness, verbose and melodramatic dialogue, a propensity for the everything oddball and more than a few laughs. He’s a good actor with laser-precise timing and I enjoy his work. Of course, for the purposes of this review and for my life in general, I’m ignoring Year One.

In Youth in Revolt, Cera plays quirky, oddball, verbose sixteen-year-old Nick Twisp; possibly the most fitting character name he’s ever acquired. The pre-credit scenes fill us in with everything we need to know about Nick and, if we’re honest, they’re pretty much what we assumed would be the case before the lights went down. Virgin? Check. Nerdy loner? Check. Unusually bright? Check. Talks like he belongs in a period drama? Check. Friends do the same? You betcha.

With his parents divorced, he finds himself with his mother (Jean Smart) who stumbles from one failed relationship to another while his father (Steve Buscemi) is shacked up with a bikini-clad twentysomething. Thanks to a bunch of sailors and a dodgy car deal, Twisp, his mother and Beardy Jerry high tail it to a “holiday resort” until the heat dies down. The resort turns out to be a trailer park and it’s here that Nick meets and falls in love with the alluring, worldly-wise francophile Sheeni, played by newcomer Portia Doubleday. I don’t think I’ve typed either of those two words in my life before.

But no holiday romance can last forever and all too soon, Nick finds himself back home with a rashly concocted plan to be reunited with his true love. Part one is to get his dad a job near Sheeni’s resort. Part two is to behave so badly that his mum sends him off to live with his dad. To stand a chance of completing Part Two, he has to reinvent himself and he does precisely that. The result is a smooth, moustachioed bounder by the name of Francois Dillinger, also played by Cera.

What happens next is pretty funny in places and in one scene near the end where Nick tries to fake his own death, it’s actually hilarious. The Dillinger alter-ego gives Cera — who must be bored playing the same character in every movie — something at least a little different to get his teeth into, even if that is just a never ending supply of cigarettes and a strip of bumfluff along his top lip. And credit where it’s due to director Miguel Arteta as he manages to fill the minor roles with some major names. Buscemi is as great as you’d expect. M Emmet Walsh is another favourite of mine and is excellent as Sheeni’s bible-thumping dad, especially when accidentally tripped out on shrooms. Fred Willard and Ray Liotta also do pretty amusing turns.

All this doesn’t really distract from the suspicion that the movie lacks direction and no one’s given Arteta the map to drive us from one set piece to the next. It’s rather like a bike freewheeling down one side of a valley and running out of steam before it gets to the top of the other side, leaving the rider to get off and push. Interesting devices seem to be plentiful but none really deliver their potential when maybe he could’ve got more out of fewer. For all the amusement, Dillinger disappears for scenes at a time and a much tauted romantic rival for Sheeni’s affections turns out to be a big disappointment when he’s finally revealed. Sheeni’s brother and jealous classmate provide yet more missed opportunities for development. There’s also something of a misplaced, misjudged, contradictory message of “being yourself” that seems to realise its own inadequacies before wisely scuttling away with it’s head barely making it round the corner.

Without proper attention to these interesting spins, it ends up little more than another tepid get-laid-teen-comedy when it’s obviously aiming higher. And as Cera gets older — he’s twenty-one now — it becomes harder and harder to find him believable as a schoolkid. Here, we’re asked to accept him as sixteen-year-old and that’s testing the limit. That said, the sight of him running around in his underpants is probably still going to be amusing for the next couple of years.

Despite its flaws, Youth in Revolt, is still a decent watch, the five or six set pieces make the experience worthwhile and it’s by no means a terrible film, no matter how much the poster tries to insist otherwise.

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