“The King of Staten Island” stars Pete Davidson, Bill Burr, Steve Buscemi, Marisa Tomei, Bel Powley, and Maude Apatow. Released on June 12, 2020, the film has a young man attempting to move forward with his life.
The film is directed by Judd Apatow, who also directed films such as “The 40-Year-Old Virgin”, “Funny People”, and “Trainwreck”. Life is full of changes. Some are good, and some are bad. How you want to live your life is whether or not you can adapt to those changes. After the success of their video-on-demand release of “Trolls World Tour”, Universal decided to continue that winning streak and release another film from their library on the digital services while ticking off several theater chains even more in the process. I hadn’t gotten into Judd Apatow’s works until I saw “Trainwreck” with my mom and sister five years ago, which I thought was decent enough for me to give it a pass despite its length. I believe I also saw parts of “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” a while ago, and that’s about it. So that makes it two films I’ve watched that were directed by Apatow, which means this film should be my third. This latest comedy-drama is supposed to be inspired by Pete Davidson’s early life before he rose to fame as a comedian, and based on what I read about him, it sounded like he’s been through a lot, but how does it translate into film? Let’s find out.
The story follows Scott Carlin (Davidson), a 24-year-old high school dropout who has been stuck at home with his mother (Tomei) ever since his firefighter father died when he was seven. He is spending his days hanging out with his friends, smoking marijuana, and chasing his dream of becoming a tattoo artist. When his mother starts dating another firefighter named Ray Bishop (Burr), it sets off a chain reaction that forces Scott to start figuring out his future. Similar to Apatow’s other films, “The King of Staten Island” combines adult-rated comedy with dramatic elements that resemble mature themes. The film represents the journey of adolescence which sees the main character transition from a spoiled and laidback man-child to a mature and responsible adult. This is a major subject matter that could translate well into a film if done correctly, which is exactly what Judd Apatow managed to accomplish as usual. While it did have some familiar elements that were portrayed in the other coming-of-age films that came before it, its respectable script by Apatow, Pete Davidson, and Dave Sirus had enough depth in its dramatic moments to illustrate life’s challenges in a sincere and hilarious way. It didn’t poke fun of the serious situations too much, and it’s not too overly serious that it alienates its audience. It’s a remarkable balance that only Apatow can master, and boy, did he master it well. After starring in supporting roles in most of his films, Pete Davidson got a chance to shine in his main role as Scott Carlin. This was actually my first time seeing him in a major role since I hardly recognized him in his supporting roles, and I have to say, after watching the film, I’m hoping that he gets more roles like this. Davidson’s performance had the right amount of nuance and humor to display a character who’s internally struggling to the changes in his life in a way that’s highly understandable and relatable. Davidson, if you’re reading this, keep up the good work, man. Marisa Tomei was also good in her role as Scott’s mother, and Bill Burr was a sight to behold as Ray. As for its flaws, I already mentioned that the story has its familiar coming-of-age tropes, so don’t expect any new surprises in its formula. The film also suffered a bit from its bloated length. With a runtime of two hours and 16 minutes, watching the film can feel like a bit of a chore. I’m not saying that it’s entirely boring. I’m saying that this is the type of story that could’ve been told in under two hours. This is one of the common elements that Apatow’s films are known for, and this film will definitely depend on whether or not you like this element. I personally still have mixed feelings on this element. The pacing was forgivable despite being a bit uneven during a couple of scenes, but when it drags out its story constantly to fit its runtime, it can come out as a bit problematic.
Overall, “The King of Staten Island” doesn’t take its coming-of-age formula to unusual places, but it has the right mixture of comedy and heart to rule over its flaws and kickstart Davidson’s next stage in his acting career. Its running time and pacing can be a bit problematic for some people, but its strong cast (particularly Davidson), Apatow’s direction, and its heartfelt screenplay kept it from being a bloated bore. It’s not going to take home a lot of awards. However, it has the quality it needed to satisfy those who are in a mood for a feel-good film.