Directed by Miguel Arteta, written by Gustin Nash and C.D. Payne, “Youth In Revolt” is a flat story of a dweeb, Nick Twisp (Michael Cera) who concocts an altar ego, Francois Dillinger, to court and try to win a girl is flat, tinny and not in the least funny. The premise is there; chances are we all harbor an inner dashing dude, oozing with derring-do or whatever we misguidingly think a woman might fall for. Given the right lead, it could introduce all sorts of comic scenes, especially since dweebs seem to be de rigeur lately – or perhaps it’s just because Michael Cera has made so many recent movies in which he plays the same sad sack character.
The problem is, Michael Cera’s naughty alter ego is more of a Sesame Street bad boy, not something along the lines, say, Jean-Paul Belmondo on whom Sheeni Saunders (Portia Doubleday), the target of his love arrow (and, in one sort-of funny suntan lotion scene, his erection), has a crush. This poorly enacted double is a wanker, a poseur, a fraud, not someone your father wouldn’t you go out with: white pants, white shoes, a fake ID mustache and surly manners. Combine that with Cera’s utter lack of masculinity, his stooped posture, and that haircut that over time is getting to look more like Ernie on Sesame Street than Matt Dillon in Sixteen Candles and you’ve got one unconvincing fantasy. There are some funny-enough scenes, all of which involve Saunders, a very good performance by Justin Long as Sheeni’s magic mushroom chomping brother, Paul, an ending comes out of the blue, but the texture of the film is uneven, at best.
The story’s bland. His father George (Steve Buscemi), is dating a sweet young thing, Lacey (Ari Graynor), who does her best but doesn’t succeed in making a stereotype interesting. His mother, Estelle, played by Jean Smart, who seems, in a good way, like she was to the white trash role born, is dating Jerry who, like (Erik Galifianakis), can’t quite animate his stereotype. Cera’s proving himself to be a one-dimensional character; even his alter ego has no depth. Doubleday’s character has an edge to her, she’s interesting, an unabashed Francophile, and is eager to expand her range of experience. Any scene with her rivets your attention; any scene with her and Cera makes you realize how hopeless his misguided courtship is. Enter the aforementioned alter ego, throw in some juvenile-lame, not juvenile-funny scenes (arson, sleeping tablets, failed suicide attempt, a blonde, broad-shouldered Ken doll of an Other Man) and you’ve go a film that doesn’t go anywhere, doesn’t offer anything in the way of a spoof or even the slightest hint of irony, and which doesn’t offer memorable about the perils of growing up.
The film has a few animations thrown in but they don’t contribute anything of substance, which is the problem with the movie: it describes the awful geekiness of first love while itself being awkward and ungainly. Not very convincing.