January is that time of year when the only movies people are going to see are December holdovers and Oscar contenders. So studios dump bad movie upon bad movie on us. It seems more like at this time of year, they release movies with so much potential, yet don’t even try. A perfect example of this is “Youth in Revolt.”
“Youth in Revolt” had the ingredients for a solid film: good cast, (supposedly) good source material, and great trailer. In the end, all of these adding up to only a decent product.
As the title suggests, “Youth in Revolt” is the story of teenage rebellion. The teen in question is Nick Twisp (Michael Cera), a sixteen-year-old virgin and an aspiring writer. His lonely existence is not helped by his cash-strapped mother Estelle (Jean Smart) and her loser boyfriend Jerry (Zach Galifianakis).
After Jerry gets into some trouble, the three hide away in a remote lake town. There, Nick falls in love with Sheeni Saunders (Portia Doubleday). In order to prove to her that he is more than just a good boy, he creates a destructive alter ego named Francois Dillinger. Then, Nick destroys some property and that’s pretty much it.
“Youth in Revolt” had two main problems: weak story, and weak humor. The problem with the story is that it hinges on to one plot detail and never seems to make any new developments from there. Why not delve deeper into Nick’s destructive impulses? While Nick is by far the most developed character in the film, why not show some depth on the other characters? “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” was able to tell a story for each character in its huge ensemble in under two hours, so why couldn’t “Youth in Revolt” do the same?
Also, throughout the film, Sheeni refuses to go all the way with Nick unless he does something really bad. However, director Miguel Areta makes absolutely no attempt to turn her into any sort of rebellious child. She seems more like the kind of girl who’d like a more civilized boyfriend than one who destroys his parents’ cars.
Other parts of the story seem very unfocused, such as the sporadic narration. Sometimes we see the story from Nick’s perspective, and other times we don’t.
Perhaps something I’m most upset about is the poor use of Zach Galifianakis. He’s given few funny lines (and practically no depth) here. They could’ve at least given him something funny to say but “The Hangover” did prove that Galifianakis doesn’t need a good one liner to be funny; all he really needs is a jock strap and a ridiculous laugh. Galifianakis had less screen time in “Up in the Air,” yet he still managed to make something hilarious out under two minutes of screen time.
Despite these flaws, the film does have a few redeeming qualities. It does manage to have a few funny scenes, not to mention that actors Fred Willard and Ray Liotta manage to steal every scene they are in. The main attraction here really is Cera. During his short career, Cera has turned himself into the nice, awkward teenager through his roles in “Arrested Development,” “Superbad,” and “Juno.” Here, he slightly throws George Michael out the window. What was so impressive about his performance was not merely that he was playing good as opposed to bad, but that he was playing a character with truly complex emotions. You never know when he’s going to be good, and when he’s suddenly going to snap. This unpredictability is a rare talent, and I hope in the future he sticks to complex roles like this. Next time, lets hope he does it with better material.
“Youth in Revolt” represents what happens when a massive heap of potential is given no effort at all. The film’s director and writer seem to treat it more like an ignored child than a baby that needs to be nurtured to grow. What the people of Hollywood need to realize is that even though moviegoers must realize that January isn’t the best time for movies, we aren’t suckers. So please, stop treating us like we are.