Rated R for sexual content, language and drug use, 90 minutes
Cera's the highlight of the mediocre "Youth in Revolt"
"Superbad," "Juno" and "Arrested Development" help make Michael Cera a familiar-faced celebrity. He's talented for sure, and his engaging everyday qualities are the main reason to see the unconventional but mediocre teen coming-of-age story "Youth in Revolt," about a dysfunctional teen boy who uses an alternate ego in hopes of losing his virginity. Some of it is darkly funny, though it's meandering script falls flat in places; it plays like a 1980's John Hughes teen comedy on acid, sort of a psychotic version of Ferris Bueller.
Cera is Nick Twisp, a lonely but intelligent teen boy who has a sharper grasp of things than what people think. His mother Estelle (Jean Smart, hilarious) and his father George (Steve Buscemi) are divorced. Estelle goes through many boyfriends, including trucker Jerry (Zach Galifianakis) and the stern cop Lance (Ray Liotta), while his unemployed father has his own young bimbo, Lacey (Ari Graynor).
Trying to evade a bad situation, Estelle and Jerry take a short vacation and in a trailer park Nick meets a pretty and equally intelligent teenage girl Sheeni (Portia Doubleday) and the two hit it off. To impress Sheeni in hopes of losing his virginity, he turns into his alter ego, Francois Dillinger, but ends up causing more trouble than its worth.
In spite of a humorous Cera performance, "Youth in Revolt" is an atypical teen comedy that misfires, in large part due to misdirection and a rambling script that spends too much time making a point about the pointless. The premise is a good one, and is based on an early 1990's novel "Youth in Revolt: The Journals of Nick Twisp," though the movie bears scant resemblance to its source; it uses the characters and basic outline but makes considerable changes to the story. It keeps some of the story's pecularity and dark humor but loses its fresh appeal by making it a sex comedy, and not a very good one at that.
Miguel Arteta, who directed "The Good Girl," doesn't seem the right fit for the material, and the script by Gustin Nash ("Charlie Bartlett") could've used more polish. Still, there are a few good moments, especially when Cera turns into his alter ego, causing all kinds of mayhem and destruction (car crashes, explosions) for the sake of a girl. Cera and newcomer Doubleday have some chemistry, though their relationship seems inconsistent at best, and the weaker moments of the film focus on her unusual family life.
"Youth in Revolt" also has too many characters, and excising some the characters from the novel would've been helpful, as in movie form many are nonessential to the plot. "The Hangover's" Galifianakis's role is little more than a cameo; Fred Willard, Justin Long, Mary Kay Place and M. Emmet Walsh are all fine actors who have little impact in smallish roles. The lovely Smart ("Samantha Who") nearly steals the show as Nick's mother, who resembles a less flashy Dolly Parton.
The whole message of "Youth in Revolt," if there's any at all, is that it's sometimes good, or even fun, to be bad, especially if its for love. Cera has fun with his part, and it proves he can be a game actor even in an underwritten role. A tighter, more focused and relevant script as it relates to teens would've made "Youth in Revolt" better; however, it does prove one thing: there is something worse than being bad, and that's mediocrity.
Not recommended unless you're a big Michael Cera fan. Rent "Superbad" or watch episodes of "Arrested Development" for better (and far funnier) Cera.