Youth in Revolt is a movie full of Michael Ceras. Cera stars in the film playing a dual role both as virgin nerd Nick Twisp and Nick’s newly created, bad boy alternate personality Francois Dillinger. But the Cera doesn’t stop there. The film’s other characters seem to have caught the Cera bug, speaking in the same mildly disconnected monotone that has become Cera’s trademark, or using Cera’s all too familiar blank stare to gaze into the camera. Everyone in the movie has become Michael Cera, it’s as if they’ve all been instructed to filter their characters through some sort of strange Michael Cera impression. That might be annoying of not for Michael Cera who, is doing something distinctly un-Cera with Twisp’s imaginary friend Francois. Bug-eyed and angry, it’s Francois Dillinger, as the only non-Cera character in the film, who makes watching Youth in Revolt worthwhile.
Dillinger appears when young Nick, sick of his constant state of virginity, comes to the realization that if he ever wants to get laid he’ll have to do the opposite of everything he’d normally do. Enter Francois Dillinger, a mustachioed chain smoker who stands in the periphery feeding Nick lines or, hilariously, when the moment calls for it simply taking over for him, leaving Nick to stare in wide-eyed awe at himself as his bad boy alter ego blusters his way into his dream girl’s bed. In those moments Youth in Revolt treads close to becoming something special. Then there’s the rest of the movie.
The rest of the film, the occasional trippy drug sequence involving a shirtless Fred Willard nose down in the carpet aside, is merely adequate. Nick’s love interest is sort of a dead end and brilliantly talented people like Zach Galifianakis, Steve Buscemi, and Justin Long feel mostly wasted in supporting roles which could have been filled by any bearded dude, old guy, or stoner. It’s not bad exactly, just alright and it leaves you wishing there was more of Francois. But Francois only drifts in and out of the picture whenever the mood strikes him. Otherwise, the movie involves jokes about how crazy taking mushrooms can make you and how much teenage boys love to get sex. It’s not exactly new material, but it’s handled well enough.
Maybe if Youth had something specific to say or maybe if Francois’ mad bombing spree had lasted the entire movie instead of just five minutes, I’d be here calling this one of the funniest comedies of the decade instead of just a couple of pleasantly forgettable laughs. Michael Cera’s probably not cut out to be a leading man, but if he’s going to play the lead in your movie, then you’ll need at least two of him. Maybe more.
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