January 14, 2010

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Youth in Revolt (R)
Michael Cera plays that Michael Cera character again in Youth in Revolt, a tale of erudite teenage delinquency.

Like all Michael Cera characters, Nick Twisp (Cera) is a bit of a weenie. He has his pretensions to intellectualism (vinyl albums, foreign films) to separate him from the yahoos at his school and the lump of id that his mother (Jean Smart) is dating (Zach Galifianakis) but his poses aren’t exactly bringing the girls running. That is until a “vacation” in a trailer park introduces him to Sheeni (Portia Doubleday), a girl who uses a love of all things French and her own vinyl collection to separate herself from her insufferably religious parents (Mary Kay Place, M. Emmet Walsh). They have a few days of perfection but then his vacation is over. How can they be together? Sheeni and Nick invent a plan that requires him to (1) get kicked out of his mom’s house to (2) live with his dad (Steve Buscemi) who must (3) get a job in the town where Sheeni lives. Because Nick doesn’t feel he’s quite capable of doing all these things himself, he decides to create an alternate persona to help him — Francois Dillinger, a blue-eyed, tight-clothes-wearing, mustachioed bad-boy who can get things done. Things like arson.

If you thought Juno was too mannered, then just walk on by the Youth in Revolt theater. The movie is hipster-cutesy and stilted to a degree that makes Jason Schwartzman’s character in Rushmore look like your all-American teen. But if you happen to like that sort of thing (I do), this movie has its charms.

One of them is the animation, which appears over the credits and in little interludes throughout the movie, as though it were going for moving zine. Also, Cera and Doubleday are a sweet, appealing couple and, if you are far enough away to laugh at (or have blocked out) your own teenage years, you can see the awkwardness and uncertainty that shine through their thesaurus-heavy vocabulary and retro affectations. And it helps that the adults who surround them are all absurd — when a ’shroom-dropping slacker played by Justin Long appears to be the most well-adjusted character, you know you’re thick in a world of quirkiness.

This movie annoyed me, admittedly, but it made me laugh and it’s the funny more than the irritating alterna-cuteness that sticks with you in the end. B-

Rated R for sexual content, language and drug use. Directed by Miguel Arteta and written by Gustin Nash (from a novel by C.D. Payne), Youth in Revolt is an hour and 30 minutes long and is distributed by the Weinstein Company.