One of the first studio releases going on digital platforms as much of the U.S. is easing its lockdown measures during a global pandemic is Judd Apatow’s latest opus, his first since This is 40.
The director, producer and co-writer collaborates with skinny Saturday Night Live performer/stand-up artist Pete Davidson in The King of Staten Island that serves as a semi-autobiographic account of the latter whose off-screen arrested development has been exploited by paparazzi.
There’s a heart and soul in the overall execution that accentuates Davidson’s charisma and the eponymous setting in measured fashion as the director’s faithful might notice qualities of his Funny People and Knocked Up. If the honing of the irreverent and tragic doesn’t blossom that well being in the presence of these characters, especially Davidson’s Scott is often a good time.
Scott was also the name of Davidson’s late father (the film is dedicated to him( who perished while acting as a first-responder during the World Trade Center attack on 9/11. Here in the screenplay also contributed by Davidson’s SNL scenarist colleague Dave Sirus, there is the loss of a firefighting dad from a hotel fire that isn’t helping the mid-20s weed guy struck in adolescence trying to get by.
His younger sister (Apatow’s daughter Maude) has a firmer eye on her future through college and his mother (a welcome Marisa Tomei) appears to have let go of her hurt. There’s only one way Scott can really move on a Apatow gives Davidson plenty of chances to amuse even if much of it really isn’t that focused.
A hang-out vibe is evident for awhile and Scott will accompany the children of mom’s new boyfriend/ex-firefighter Ray (Bill Burr) on their way to school. An emotional part of Scott’s life includes how he’ll approach his father’s former buddies at the firehouse, no0t to mention an occasional love interest in Kelsey (Bel Powley).
So, the freewheeling naughtiness gradually gives way to a realization that has heartrending attributes in a coming-of-age that Apatow has mined fairly well in his career. While he gets much out of his lead like Kristen Wiig, Seth Rogen and Steve Carell, as well as Adam Sandler in other vehicles the underlying cast is noticeable even if they’re not ideally used throughout the narrative. Moises Arias is funny as a pill-popping buddy Igor and Pamela Adlon (who’s gotten much notice or her comic aplomb on F/X’s Better Things) fares well as Ray’s ex-wife, Gina. Even Steve Buscemi who’s gone through much personal strife offscreen has an albeit to brief presence in the way Scott has to reckon with his past.
This King may be favorable for many with a final memorable sight as a cinematic memoir crafted fraternal, often humorous stokes by Apatow and Davidson has a tattoo-covered likability ready made for a unique, if needed rescuing.