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Review: The King of Staten Island

Pete Davidson stars in Universal Pictures' THE KING OF STATEN ISLAND

I always worry about movies being longer than they need to be. That’s an issue that has made its way through Hollywood for years now. Out of all the filmmakers out there, Judd Apatow appears to be one of the most obvious violators of this trend. And while it’s not a horrible movie, The King of Staten Island shows that he’s in no rush to change this perception of his work any time soon.

Ever since his firefighter father died when he was 7 years old, Scott (Pete Davidson) hasn’t been up to much. Now at 24, the young man is growing more hopeless as his dreams appear to be nothing more than wild fantasies he won’t be able to accomplish. As his younger sister (Maude Apatow) heads off to college and he spends his days smoking weed, nothing seems to be improving. But when his mother (Marisa Tomei) begins dating again, a set of events take place that will force Scott to analyze his life and maybe take in a more productive direction.

There comes a point in The King of Staten Island where you know the exact scenes that should either be cut out completely or greatly reduced in order to speed things up and keep things moving. Most of these useless scenes are in the earliest portions of the film. In a way that’s good since you get rid of this stuff early, but it’s also potentially negative since you risk losing viewers who will be watching this at home.

After that first 40 minutes or so, The King of Staten Island begins to feel like an actual movie. This is where things finally start to come together and there’s actually some sort of narrative and structure to just about everything that’s going on. Once this happens, things get better. You’ll be happy about that, but the shift also highlights just how much time was wasted beforehand.

Thinking back on the movie, you realize just how unimportant many of the early scenes and characters are. We spend too much time with Scott hanging out with his friends and building up the relationship he has with his sister. I understand that you have to let us know more about them, but not much time was needed in order for Apatow to accomplish his goals pertaining to these specific characters.

You could cut at least half of the stuff about them out and still end up with the exact same movie. The only thing that would have changed was the pacing since the movie would have been smoother, faster, and more to the point. As I basically said earlier, this is a normal complaint about Judd Apatow movies. And like those that came before The King of Staten Island, you just walk away wishing that he was willing to remove some of it.

As a whole, the movie is actually solid to watch. As a comedy, it’s not all that funny, but it managed to get a chuckle out of me on multiple occasions. That actually caught me by surprise. If I’m being honest, for some reason I expected to have the same flat response that I had to that “train wreck” of a movie Apatow made back in 2015 starring Amy Schumer.

Because of its content, you may look at The King of Staten Island as something that’s closer to a drama than a comedy, so the term “dramedy” fits here. I don’t know if that was the intent, but that’s what they ended up with. Regardless of whether or not this was done on purpose, I think people can find some positives here. They may even find the jokes funnier than I did.

The actors who benefit the most from the improved (not perfect) pacing are Marisa Tomei and Bill Burr. Although they are supporting characters, they’re easily the most interesting people on-screen. And if you decide to watch this, you’ll notice that the real movie begins once Burr is introduced and the two actors become more important parts of all that’s taking place.

Although I can’t describe Burr’s character as being likable, he’s certainly the type of character that you will want to watch and learn more about. Tomei is the more likable of the two as she does what she does and delivers the kind of performance that has helped her build a steady career that’s lasted for so many years. In saying all of this, it’s easy to see that the movie should have been centered around them more.

That was never going to happen since Pete Davidson is one of the main people behind the production of the film. Not saying that you would have to go to this extreme, but if he were somehow placed in a supporting role and allowed these two to be the leads, I still think the movie works well. I think it would have also worked if the three of them were all of equal importance.

Movies usually benefit from performances that can grab and keep your attention. Tomei and Burr are able to do that here and are more able to carry this sort of film as a duo due to their charisma and the personality traits that they’re able to display throughout. Davidson doesn’t seem to have those qualities at this point in his career. Although he’s not awful here, he also wasn’t capable of standing out in his own movie.

The King of Staten Island would be much easier to recommend if it wasn’t so unnecessarily long. While it stretches to 2 hours and 17 minutes, it might have about an hour and 45 minutes worth of relevant material at the most. I think many can still enjoy what’s included especially if they find the comedy more amusing than I did. If not, there’s at least a chance that you may not make it passed that first 40 or so minutes.

Rating: R

Director: Judd Apatow

Judd Apatow
Pete Davidson
Dave Sirus

Pete Davidson
Marisa Tomei
Bill Burr
Bel Powley
Maude Apatow
Steve Buscemi

Film Length: 137 minutes

Release Date: June 12, 2020 (On-Demand)

Distributor: Universal Pictures

  • 6.5/10
    Score - 6.5/10
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