Year:  2020

Director:  Judd Apatow

Rated:  MA

Release:  July 16, 2020

Distributor: Universal

Running time: 137 minutes

Worth: $17.00
FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth

Cast:
Pete Davidson, Marisa Tomei, Bill Burr, Steve Buscemi

Intro:
...genuinely funny and shows a lot of heart, featuring sub plots and characters with enough depth to pull you deep into the universe they’ve created.

Two of the best films of 2020 (so far), feel extremely relevant given the current environment. The timing of Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods amidst the BLM movement makes it all the more powerful, while the emphasis on general life movement within Judd Apatow’s latest is all-too familiar amidst COVID isolation.

The King of Staten Island tells the semi-autobiographical story of comedian Pete Davidson. Scott is a 20-something who lost his father at a young age and still lives with his mum (Tomei). With the arrival of his mum’s new boyfriend (Burr), seemingly everyone Scott knows is pushing him to do something with his life, besides getting stoned with his friends.

As an Apatow film, TKOSI is a return to form. It’s genuinely funny and shows a lot of heart, featuring sub plots and characters with enough depth to pull you deep into the universe they’ve created. This is largely thanks to Davidson’s involvement as co-writer and producer.

The problem with Apatow’s previous films, like This Is 40, was that he seemed so out of touch with the Average Joe, it became hard to feel sorry for or even relate to his lead characters. Similarly, with Trainwreck that Amy Schumer wrote and starred in, the characters and scenarios felt too animated and extreme, so it was hard to relate again.

With Davidson as inspiration, Apatow has found the perfect balance, largely because most of it’s based on real people and experiences – it’s what the film needed as an anchor, and is made all the more emotional given Apatow’s ability to find humour in the heavy stuff.

As a Davidson film, this is a huge feather in his cap. For anyone who hasn’t watched much Saturday Night Live, you may only know Davidson as the former boyfriend of singer Ariana Grande, or someone who occasionally pops up on Celebrity Roast. His gawky demeanour and awkward comedy style make him hard to like even in small doses, but here he gets a chance to unpack the baggage that’s driving him and eventually win you over.

At over 2 hours long, TKOSI definitely drags at times, which is even more annoying given that some character arcs aren’t closed off – for example the very opening scene, which is effective at grabbing attention, doesn’t really come back into play nor does it feel aligned with the character by the end. Similarly, some of Scott’s friends and particularly the relationship with his sister, fall by the wayside.

In terms of casting, in addition to Davidson’s debut as a lead, many of his co-stars get their deserving break. Standouts are Bel Powley as Scott’s friend and casual fling, and Maude Apatow (yes Judd’s daughter, previously seen in Knocked Up and This Is 40), as Scott’s concerned sister. Veterans Marisa Tomei, Bill Burr and Steve Buscemi are also solid as expected.

All in all, while it starts slow and seems long, the final half-hour is worth the wait. It’s where all the emotional build-ups hit home, topped off with one of the most fitting music needle drops just as the credits roll.

BONUS LIST

Seeing as we’ve already shared our opinion on two of Apatow’s previous films, we figured we’d go the whole nine yards and rank his full filmography. Here it is:

  1. The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005)
  2. Knocked Up (2007)
  3. The King Of Staten Island (2020)
  4. Funny People (2009)
  5. Trainwreck (2015)
  6. This Is 40 (2012)
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