THE KING OF STATEN ISLAND MOVIE REVIEW(2020, UNIVERSAL)
THE KING OF STATEN ISLAND MOVIE REVIEW(2020, UNIVERSAL) with Pete Davidson, Bill Burr, Marisa Tomei Directed by Judd Apatow
A turn happened in the career of Judd Apatow around 2009. He was always a comedy director who didn’t tolerate comedians just doing shtick, acting and playing a full-fledged character were two things high on his list as well. But then with “Funny People” he started making “sorta-comedies”; movies that were just as much about soul searching as they were about the jokes, in some cases, even more so. That brings me to “The King of Staten Island”, a movie I’m not even sure belongs in a comedy category, which does not bode well for this being a star vehicle for SNL’s Pete Davidson. Unfortunately, it also doesn’t have much “meaning” to offer either.
Davidson is a sketch comedian who I think is far more known now from tabloid stories linking him to every hottie from Ariana Grande to Kate Beckinsale, which I admit is fascinating because this lanky, tattooed, 90 pound-looking elf doesn’t seem remotely appealing. His father I've also come to find was a firefighter who died on 9/11 which creates something autobiographical here. Sort of. Being a comedian and subject of internet fodder, Davidson takes the “dad jokes” directed at him here like a champ. His character being a shitty tattoo artist is funny too, in spurts. Just not much else here is. The movie tries to earn some comedy out of life or death situations but never fully succeeds. Scenes where his character must fight for tips in a restaurant also are not very funny.
But more so it just doesn't work because this character is so morose and self-pitying. Scott (Davidson) is content in just sitting around smoking weed and watching “The Purge”. His dad died in a fire (thankfully the movie is smart enough to not try to earn our sympathy by mentioning 9/11) and he’s been using it to fund his own arrested development ever since. Emotional issues prevent him from getting closer to a girlfriend (Bel Powley), finding a job, or going to school. There’s a sadness in him that he covers with a lackadaisical cynicism that, to start the movie, is endearing but after a certain point starts to lead to the scene after scene of him just futzing around to an exhausting degree.
Without question the movie’s true heart should have been a moment, that sadly doesn’t come till the third act, where Scott is finally kicked out of his mom’s (Marisa Tomei) house and he must take-up at the firehouse of her new fireman boyfriend (Bill Burr), a character who up to this point has represented a “shape up or ship out” approach that has not been fully embraced. Here Scott hangs with the guys, hears stories about his dad, is made to do chores around the house, gets closer with the Burr character, and in turn closer with the memory of his father. Why the hell was all this just shoe-horned into the last half hour of this movie? It’s terrific. If Davidson didn’t know better, I can’t believe Apatow didn’t. It should have been introduced much earlier. Instead, it’s mostly a movie based on the pointless life of a loser, where the start of the catharsis should have happened a lot sooner.