Scott (Pete Davidson) is in his mid-20s and still living with his mom, Margie (Marisa Tomei). He largely spends his days lazing about, smoking marijuana and hanging out with his friends as well as secretly sleeping with Kelsey (Bel Powley). Scott is also a wannabe tattoo artist but his skills are lacking and he has little motivation to pursue the career. Scott’s world is shaken up, however, when his mom starts dating Ray (Bill Burr), who is a firefighter, just like his deceased father.
The comedic aesthetics of ‘Saturday Night Live’ star Pete Davidson (whose life the film is inspired by) and Judd Apatow (writer-director of ‘Knocked Up’, ‘The 40-Year-Old Virgin’ and ‘Trainwreck’) unite. Given both are well versed in the improv process, you’d expect the collaboration to work. For the most part, it does and the end result, ‘The King of Staten Island’ is a funny, poignant and surprising feature. It does, however, suffer from a couple of the flaws that Apatow has previously been criticised for, including that the movie is too long (clocking in at over 2 hours) and somewhat inconsistent in its pacing as a result.
Pete Davidson makes for a likeable lead with Burr at his most fun when he exercises that grumpy persona he’s synonymous with in his Netflix series ‘F is for Family’. Tomei is brilliant as always and she’s joined by two other excellent actresses in Bel Powley and Maude Apatow, the latter playing Scott’s sister, Claire. Apatow is great at writing strong, very funny women, exasperated by the stoner men they’re forced to look after, and that’s the same case here too. Scott’s friends Oscar (Ricky Valez), Igor (Moises Arias) and Richie (Lou Wilson) earn laughs too as they taunt one another and crack jokes while watching TV and playing games together.
While there are some great laugh-out-loud moments, ‘The King of Staten Island’ doesn’t quite offer laugh after laugh. It’s striving to be an emotional family drama too. As with other Apatow movies, a lot happens over the course of its running length, and you are invested in seeing how Scott will get himself out of this self-imposed stasis, if he even can. The story has you invested, keeping you on your toes as it goes in unexpected directions. Eventually Scott is forced onto a crossroads as he is offered the dangerous life path of crime, or positive options such as university. This isn’t exclusively the case for Scott either. All the characters have stuff to figure out, including grown-ups Margie and Ray.
The film is a great ensemble act with Steve Buscemi and Pamela Adlon in the mix as well. You’ll enjoy it more than you expected to, but probably won’t count it among Apatow or Davidson’s best work.
'The King of Staten Island' hits Amazon, iTunes and on demand platforms on June 12th.