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Review: The King of Staten Island (2020)

The King of Staten Island (2020)

Directed by: Judd Apatow

Premise: Scott is a twenty-four year old (Pete Davidson) who lives an aimless life with his widowed mother (Marisa Tomei) on Staten Island. Scott is thrown into a crisis when his mother begins seeing a new man (Bill Burr).

What Works: The King of Staten Island is a collaboration between filmmaker Judd Apatow and comedian Pete Davidson. Apatow directs, Davidson stars, and the two of them co-wrote the script with Dave Sirus. This is a fruitful partnership and The King of Staten Island is recognizable as an Apatow film—it’s another story about protracted adolescence—but it has a different flavor from any of the director’s other work. Be it the east coast setting or the cinematography of Robert Elswit, The King of Staten Island has a different look from Apatow’s other pictures which was sometimes televisual. Despite featuring a few recognizable actors like Marisa Tomei and Steve Buscemi, The King of Staten Island doesn’t look like a glossy Hollywood film. It has a worn, lived-in look that gives the movie a vivid visual texture. In keeping with that style, The King of Staten Island is more restrained. It’s still a comedy but the movie is also dramatic and has considerable weight. Scott, played by Davidson, lost his firefighter father to an on-the-job accident and he hasn’t gotten over the loss, remaining at home with his widowed mother. When she starts dating a guy who is also a firefighter, Scott is forced to confront the way his life has stagnated. Apatow revisits his familiar theme of an immature young adult taking responsibility for his own life but the melancholy makes The King of Staten Island noticeably different from Apatow’s other films. Davidson conveys that grief and although the movie is funny the humor is always underscored by a sense of loss.

What Doesn’t: Like nearly every Judd Apatow movie, The King of Staten Island is too long. This picture runs two hours and sixteen minutes; admittedly, The King of Staten Island fills out that running time better than some of Apatow’s other features but it would benefit from streamlining some of the redundancies. The movie has several subplots and a few of them don’t pay off enough to justify the time commitment. That’s especially true of Scott’s drug dealing friends. The sister (Maude Apatow) figures importantly into the early portions of the story but the sister disappears by the end of the movie. 

DVD extras: Deleted scenes, alternate endings, gag reel, featurettes, interviews, a commentary track, and a trailer.

Bottom Line: The King of Staten Island is one of Judd Apatow’s better films, probably his best since Funny People. It revisits some of the filmmaker’s popular themes but presents them in a fresh and more mature way and Pete Davidson proves himself to be a promising acting talent with both comedic and dramatic material.

Episode: #817 (September 13, 2020)