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Cera channels Belmondo in Youth in Revolt
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Cera channels Belmondo in Youth in Revolt

by Scott Rice - SGN Contributing Writer

Youth in Revolt
Opening January 8


Michael Cera is a terrific comedic actor with superb timing. He wields the pregnant pause like a samurai slices warm butter. And just when you think his career has been compromised beyond repair due to typecasting as the awkward teenage nice guy he goes and channels Jean-Paul Belmondo in the better than average teen romp Youth in Revolt.

Nick (Cera) is sixteen, a budding intellectual, and the product of California suburban malaise. On a trip to Northern California, Nick falls for Sheeni (Portia Doubleday), the pretty blonde offspring of the worst kind of born again Christians (i.e. ones that live in double-decker trailer homes).

The teenagers find they have a lot in common. Namely, a love of literature, Frank Sinatra, and everything French, especially French movies. They also share a healthy disdain for their parents.

As Nick heads home to suburbia, he realizes the only way for the lovers to be together is to get his dad a job in Ukiah and get kicked out of his mom's house. But Nick is too nice, too morally centered, to do the nasty kind of stuff a kid must do to get kicked out. Thus Nick's alter-ego Francois Dillinger, a suave car thief with an evil streak and no capacity for remorse, is born.

Okay, Cera doesn't capture the extreme sexual energy that Belmondo oozed onto the screen in 1960. I mean, how could he? Belmondo's fast talking car thief is the sexiest male character ever to grace the cinema (and I stand by that superlative).

Still, Cera takes a fun turn as Francois, alter ego to nice guy teen, Nick Twisp, and he takes a baby step toward playing a different character than we saw in Arrested Development, Superbad, Juno, and Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. He's also pretty cute in skinny white Euro-trash pants and sockless white loafers.

Portia Doubleday may have the best actor name I've heard in a while, but she gets eclipsed by Cera and the ensemble of veterans including Jean Smart, Mary Kay Place, Justin Long, Ray Liotta, Fred Willard, and the ever irascible Steve Buscemi. Doubleday is fine; she just has little to do other than be a pretty prick-tease who dreams in French and can't make up her mind between two vastly different boys.

High praise goes to the bevy of veterans in flat thankless roles. They make the most of what they're offered. Willard had me rolling as the aged pinko commie activist who aids and abets illegal immigrants. His tripping on mushrooms scene should go down in history. Buscemi is always fun to watch in everything he does. We haven't seen enough of him lately and I'd prefer to see him in better material, but he takes what could have been a cliché and turns it into something more.

This is a decent film that's a tad bit smarter than most in the genre (hey, two characters know who Jean-Paul Belmondo is). Cera is a great actor within his narrow element and could be interesting in other roles as he gets older. For now, I encourage him to make a bazillion dollars doing as many insipid teen flicks as he can line up before that cherubic face grows whiskers and lines and his shtick starts to look like Woody Allen redux.

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