Pete Davidson, the heavily tattooed, lanky Lothario, perhaps as well known for his prolific celebrity relationships and struggles with mental health as he is for being a cast member on 'Saturday Night Live,' stars in "The King of Staten Island," a semi-autobiographical comedy-drama directed by Judd Apatow. It's available to watch now through Video On Demand (Fandango Live, Apple TV, Amazon Prime, Redbox On Demand, Google Play). The gist is Davidson plays Scott Carlin, a 24-year-old aspiring tattoo-artist who's going through a quarter-life crisis with coming to terms with the death of his father and living at home with his mom. Here's what the reviews are saying:
It's Autobiographical… But Not Too Autobiographical
In Staten Island, there's no Ariana Grande stand-in, no references to Dan Crenshaw or Saturday Night Live. Imagine 8 Mile if B. Rabbit's secret dream was to franchise a TGI Fridays and you have some idea of the cognitive dissonance.
The dramedy is so obviously inspired by Davidson's own life that knowing basic biographical information about him can make the story more confusing. I spent a large portion of the film wondering why Davidson's Scott would hide that his dad died in 9/11, only to realize that he wasn't — The King of Staten Island, perhaps realizing that invoking 9/11 would overwhelm an otherwise low-key tale, has Scott's dad dying in a regular house fire instead.
It's Undoubtedly A Judd Apatow Movie
From the first hang sesh between Davidson's rudderless tattoo artist Scott and his coterie of dirtbag pals, it's clear that The King of Staten Island gets most of its DNA from Knocked Up and The 40-Year-Old Virgin.
Scott ticks every box as an Apatow archetype. Scott smokes a ton of weed, refuses to commit to the girl he's sleeping with, and doesn't seem interested in getting a job or bettering himself in any way. The movie seems to posit that his arrested development is caused by his inability to get over the death of his father.
Davidson Delivers An Emotional Performance
Davidson is putting himself out there, showing a real actor's gift for using humor and nuance to go to dark places; you feel the pain under the clowning, and he's shaping his life into something funny, touching and vital.
Davidson is persuasively raw in a performance that becomes increasingly textured and interesting as Scott finds a father figure in his mother's ex-boyfriend.
There's something ... redeemable about this lanky loser with the big sad eyes and the quick wit. We know he's hurting inside, and if he can just get out of his own way and be honest with himself, an actual human being just might rise to the surface…Davidson delivers a fully realized, nuanced performance, tackling dark comedy and raw drama with equal aplomb.
But Liking The Movie Depends On Whether You Like Davidson
Much of the appeal of The King of Staten Island comes down to how charming audiences find its star, and while Davidson is earnest and vulnerable, he's just not that funny here, and it's easy to see why so many people in Scott's life find him annoying.
No one wants to take a road trip with someone they marginally like, let alone someone who rankles their nerves. And that's The King of Staten Island, a heavy comedy that feels like being trapped in a car for two-plus hours with someone who makes you laugh some of that time, and mildly irritates you most of that time.
If you've found Pete Davidson irritating on Saturday Night Live, you're in for a surprise with his autobiographically tinged comedy feature The King of Staten Island: In the movie he's irritating in a completely different way.
If, like me, you find Davidson an inherently fascinating, sympathetic, sometimes frustrating figure, the movie will have extra emotional heft.
The Real Stars Are Marisa Tomei And Bel Powley
Tomei and Powley — whose winsome intelligence shines through a wobbly New Yawk accent — are the two star players here, and yet they are forced to orbit around all this vaguely Oedipal male rutting, popping up occasionally to give the movie a zing of life before being pushed to the sidelines once more.
Within the scattered narrative, it's Powley's Kelsey who comes out the winner, and the most realized character in the film.
Were it not for the supporting cast, particularly the presence of Marisa Tomei as Scott's mother and Bel Powley as his childhood friend and secret lover, there wouldn't had been much to emotionally invest in. I don't remember the last time I wanted the protagonist to be overthrown by the supporting cast.
It's A Long Movie, Maybe Too Long
Judd Apatow has made his share of overlong movies, but none as languorously paced as his latest comedy of delayed adulthood and life crisis, The King Of Staten Island.
…the movie drags on for 137 minutes, which feels like considerably more than the familiar premise and its aimless central character can fully support.
Apatow refuses to make short movies and thus "The King of Staten Island" is a bit of an odyssey that's packed with some well-drawn side characters (including Maude Apatow as Scott's sister) and subplots as well as some questionable and repetitive ones.
The King of Staten Island is big on heart, but short on laughs (in comparison to Train Wreck and 40-Year-Old Virgin), but that's not a negative. I like that there are only a few over-the-top moments. The laughs occur as a way to break up the seriousness of the story. It balances drama and comedy perfectly.