Youth In Revolt: Rebel Without A Pair

Movie:Youth In Revolt
Company:Dimension Films
Director:Miguel Arteta
Starring:Michael Cera
Portia Doubleday
Steve Buscemi
Jean Smart
Ray Liotta
Zach Galifianakis

        The other day a guy I work with sent me an email. Attached to it was a flowchart. It was titled, “How To Make A Michael Cera Movie”. Not surprisingly, despite the sarcasm, it was pretty accurate. Which is really kind of sad. If you're going to make a movie about youth rebellion, you might want to start by tossing out any movie formula.

        However, I don't think that this is a consideration when you cast Michael Cera. Nothing against him personally, but, after “Superbad”, “Juno”, and “Nick & Nora's Infinite Playlist”, it is becoming apparent that he is just another of Hollywood's one trick ponies for this generation's teens. Dress the pony a little differently, change the set and the music, and lead him out for his performance. It works for bit, and then people start doing sarcastic flowcharts.

        In “Youth In Revolt” Michael Cera plays Michael Cera playing Nick Twisp, who is, by formula, a milquetoast. Nick has the right background for a rebellious teen. He comes from a broken home, father (Steve Buscemi) absent, mother (Jean Smart) shacking up with loser boyfriends. When one of these loser boyfriends (Zach Galifianakis) needs to lie low, Nick finds himself on “vacation” in the country. There, by formula, he meets the girl of his dreams, Sheeni Saunders (Portia Doubleday). Sheeni, by formula, is pretty, approachable, intelligent and quirky. She even likes her toast with a little milk. Nick eventually has to go back home but vows that, despite the distance and a rival for Sheeni's affections, he will return to her.

        In order to accomplish this, Nick knows that he has to grow a set. But rather than do that, he invents an alternate personality to carry the set for him. Enter Francois Dillinger, or, more accurately, Michael Cera playing Michael Cera playing Nick Twisp playing Francois Dillinger playing Tyler Durden. Francois is bad where Nick can't be. He burns down his town in order to be sent to live with his father. He convinces Sheeni to pull some strings to get his father a job in Sheeni's town. He trashes Sheeni's enrollment to a private French boarding school. All to be with her, all in the name of love. In the real world this is usually called things like delusional, stalking, and decidedly unattractive.

        However, the real shame in “Youth In Revolt”, beyond the ambiguity of message, is that at no point does hilarity ever ensue. Scene upon scene of Michael Cera as the love sick puppy dog playing at being bad only cement the inescapable truth that this pony only knows one trick. It was kind of funny the first time you saw it. Now it only produces groans.

        With the usual Michael Cera formula comes the expected Hollywood cheap shots and grabbing of comedic low hanging fruit. Sheeni's parents are Hollywood caricatures of Born Again Christians against whom she must rebel, “My parents are religious fanatics, they are exhausting.”. They live in a trailer which has an addition built onto it to show off their affluence and which is filled with religious icons. They call Nick a “heathen” to his face and advise him “check into your soul”. They even cast out Sheeni's new pet dog as “from the devil” when it shreds a bible. The trailer belonging to Nick's mother's boyfriend is also filled with religious icons which border on the ridiculous. This boyfriend is threatened by a group of Hollywood stereotypical angry sailors and replaced by a Hollywood stereotypical lowlife cop. Even the mother's neighbor is a "former activist" who houses illegal aliens. Maybe director Miguel Arteta should look a little closer at his script before using the label, “exhausting”.

        “Youth In Revolt” plays at revolution but delivers more of the same old, same old. So there is no need to march in the street and carry a sign for this revolt. In fact, there is no need to even go to the theater and drop a few bucks.

Hollywood, STFU Rating: 3.5 Hammer and Sickles