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‘The King of State Island’ Review

More than any other director working today, you know exactly what you’re going to get when you sit down for a Judd Apatow film.

“The King of Staten Island” stars Pete Davidson as Scott, a 20-something with a case of arrested development who is still coping with the death of his firefighter father 17 years earlier. When his mom (Marisa Tomei) begins dating a new guy who is also a firefighter (Bill Burr), it forces Scott to begin to get his life together. Bel Powley, Maude Apatow, and Steve Buscemi also star as Judd Apatow directs a script his wrote with Davidson and Dave Sirus.

Like “Scoob!” and “The High Note,” this film was originally supposed to get a theatrical release before COVID shut down all theaters, and the studio opted to try the demand for streaming rentals out (Universal, the company distributing this film, also made waves by doing it with “Trolls World Tour”). It’s an interesting venture to be sure, and some of the enjoyment of seeing a comedy in a crowded theater will surely be missed, but like most Apatow films “The King of Staten Island” has heart and laughs, even if it is longer and at times a bit more aimless than it has to be.

Pete Davidson has gone from the babyface on SNL to somewhat controversial(?) tattooed ex-fiancé of popstar Ariana Grande in three short years. He has shown up in several films in small supporting roles (including Apatow’s last directorial effort “Trainwreck”), but besides “Big Time Adolescence” has never been asked to shoulder the leading load. Davidson surely relates to Scott, as when he was young Davidson lost his firefighting father on 9/11, and also has a lot of tattoos. I’m sure the role was somewhat therapeutic to him, and his portrayal of a man-child with several mental issues is done with a nice balance of respectful and honest. I’m not a huge follower of Davidson (I think he’s funny but just sometimes swings and misses), but he does a good job here crafting the character and delivering some funny lines.

The supporting cast are all solid as well, although none of them are truly given any arcs or development.
“Hot Aunt May” Marisa Tomei is always a welcome presence in anything, and Bill Burr does a good job as “mom’s new boyfriend.” A few other people pop up here and there that will make you go “oh, I like that person!” like in most of Apatow’s films, but this is Davidson’s show.

Like with every single one of his films, Judd Apatow’s problem is he refuses to trim the scope of his narrative and/or dare cut out anything he wrote. This film is 137 minutes long, which isn’t bad in its own right but just seems excessive for a studio comedy. What’s more is there is a subplot in here that takes up minimum ten minutes and leads absolutely nowhere, and I don’t think produces enough laughs to even justify keeping it in. Still, aside from that, Apatow does craft a pretty decent pace, and even handles a few dramatic and intense scenes with good skill.

I really enjoyed “The King of Staten Island” and is another solid entry into the “perfectly solid” filmography of Apatow. It has its random and at times out-of-place vulgar humor, but there are a handful of hearty laughs to be shared and Davidson turns in solid work in the lead role (if there are even award shows next year this will hopefully land him a Golden Globe nod).

Critics Rating: 7/10

‘Trainwreck’ a Dramedy That’s Right On Track

Trainwreck_posterI found it funny that Paul Rudd and Judd Apatow used to make movies together all the time, and now each of them had their own movie come out in the same weekend. Anyone else chuckle? Nope, just me? Alright, well…onto the review.

“Trainwreck” is the latest film from director Judd Apatow, and is the first film he directed that isn’t written by him. Stepping in the writer’s shoes is Amy Schumer, who also stars. When a commitment-phobic working woman (Schumer) meets a sports doctor (Bill Hader), she begins to wonder if she has been living her life wrong. I know that plot sounds like near every rom-com ever, but as you’ll find out (by reading!), the film overcomes that. OK, moving on.

I’m a middling fan of Judd Apatow’s work. I enjoy all of his films about the same, but while they all often scratch greatness, they fail to reach their full potential. “Trainwreck” isn’t going to be a film I remember and reference for years to come, however it may be Apatow’s best film to date.

As I said above, the story of the film is pretty cliché; everything you think is going to happen will happen. So for the movie to succeed, it needed to be able to provide something extra, and “Trainwreck” does just that by having relatable moments, self-deprecation and a surprising amount of dramatic heft.

Amy Schumer, who has been on fire as of late and is being touted as a trailblazer for women in comedy, is very good in her first starring film role. She essentially is playing the version of herself that she jokes about in her standup, being the heavy drinker who goes home with any guy from the bar that she wants. She does a surprisingly tender work in some of the film’s more dramatic scenes, too, and until she becomes Melissa McCarthy and beats us over the head with her presence, I welcome more Amy Schumer in my life.

Doing fine work in supporting roles are Bill Hader (who I always forget how charming his is) and LeBron James, who plays a fictionalized version of himself. Hader does his normal deadpan nice guy routine, and LeBron makes a lot of references to Cleveland and the NBA, which I’m sure were entered specifically for the guys who are dragged to this by their girlfriends and wives (not to say the movie as a whole isn’t full of jokes for everyone).

The biggest problems with the film are the issues found in all Apatow films, in that there are plenty of scenes that exist for the sake of one joke, and if cut wouldn’t change the plot at all. And even though the runtime is two hours, just like with every one of his films you walk out feeling like the film lasted much longer than it actually did. The climax somewhat drags before suddenly ending, but it doesn’t derail the film (ha! “Derailed”! I didn’t even try and make that train wreck reference! I’m hilarious even when I don’t even mean to be…).

I enjoyed a lot about “Trainwreck,” and even if the plot is cliché and the narrative a bit rough around the edges, those flaws are mostly redeemed by charming actors and a smart script. How much fun you get out of the film really depends on how many raunchy jokes you can handle, but seeing as this is Apatow’s fifth directorial effort, you should know what to expect by now.

Critics Rating: 8/10