Combustible Celluloid
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With: Pete Davidson, Marisa Tomei, Bel Powley, Bill Burr, Ricky Velez, Lou Wilson, Moises Arias, Carly Aquilino, Maude Apatow, Kevin Corrigan, Jay Rodriguez, Steve Buscemi
Written by: Judd Apatow, Pete Davidson, Dave Sirus
Directed by: Judd Apatow
MPAA Rating: R for language and drug use throughout, sexual content and some violence/bloody images
Running Time: 136
Date: 06/12/2020

The King of Staten Island (2020)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

For Pete's Sake

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Tackling some of star Pete Davidson's real-life troubles, this touching, hilarious comedy-drama is long but breezy, weighty but easy, with an excellent lead performance and a great cast of characters.

In The King of Staten Island, twenty-four year-old Scott Carlin (Pete Davidson) is on a path to nowhere. Ever since his dad, a firefighter, died when he was a kid, Scott has lived with his widowed mother, Margie (Marisa Tomei), smoked pot with his friends, practices his tattoo art, and done little else. After an incident involving Scott attempting to tattoo a 9 year-old boy, the boy's father, Ray (Bill Burr) arrives to complain, but winds up asking Margie out on a date.

It happens that Ray is also a firefighter, and despite his attempts to befriend Scott, they can't get along. But when Scott's friends get into trouble attempting to rob a pharmacy, Scott is kicked out of the house and winds up staying at the firehouse, where he begins to learn some important lessons about life.

The sixth movie by writer/director Judd Apatow, The King of Staten Island ranks among his best. He still hasn't learned brevity or compactness (of his movies, only The 40-Year-Old Virgin runs under 2 hours, and this one is 136 minutes), but this time — rather than becoming cluttered and unevenly paced — all of the subplots and supporting characters come together in a seamless flow. It has a strong sense of place, capturing Staten Island's beauty as well as its seediness. There's hardly a wasted moment, and just about everything contributes to Scott's character arc.

Davidson's comedy — not exactly nice-guy humor — won't appeal to everyone, but fans will find him not only very funny, but also extremely engaging. A great scene in which Scott's father's death is discussed comes early on, disguised as a joke, but still somehow utterly poignant, thanks to Davidson's perfect delivery. He balances pain and humor expertly, and creates an organic, honest performance.

He and Apatow make a great team, and The King of Staten Island feels as if it it were a work of trust and sharing, with no falseness or cynicism. Tomei, Burr, Bel Powley, Steve Buscemi, and many other fine cast members seem to share in the movie's lovable energy.

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