The King of Staten Island movie poster
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The King of Staten Island
The King of Staten Island movie poster

The King of Staten Island Movie Review

Now available on Blu-ray and DVD (Buy on Amazon)

An amusing comedy-drama that falls short of, though never attempts to go for, the gut-busting laughs you’d expect from a Judd Apatow movie, The King of Staten Island is an entertaining if somewhat unmemorable showcase for Walking Lips, also known as Pete Davidson.

Davidson stars as a creative loser who lacks motivation, will power, and wisdom to do much with his life, but when his mother (played by Marisa Tomei) starts to date a fireman (XXX)—his father, also a firefighter, died during the September 11 attacks—the next stage of his life is set in motion.

Co-written by Apatow and Davidson, The King of Staten Island meanders in parallel with its central character, who is based on Davidson. That meandering makes the movie a bloated two hours and 15 minutes, often pieced together with scenes that could almost be described as vignettes. Step back a few feet, however, and the movie proves to be a compelling character drama about a funny guy trying to find his way in life, zigzagging through experiences and moments that don’t fit with a simple narrative.

Despite Apatow’s background—most notably The 40-Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up—and Davidson’s comedic experience, The King of Staten Island is not the next Trainwreck, which also relied heavily on its comedic star. More a drama with bursts of funny moments, Apatow seems uninterested in repeating the formula that has worked so well for him in the past.

Still, the movie would have benefited from tighter editing; it never overstays its welcome, but Apatow could have achieved a few more laughs and a gotten to the heart of the story faster. The opening act, especially, lasts a little too long; the good news is the film gets better, and more focused, as it progresses.

As for Davidson, he serves as a fine protagonist. He’s a decent actor, and certainly is a good fit for a movie that is based on his own life. He isn’t a commanding presence, though; the film relies heavily on the supporting cast to carry the heavy dramatic and comedic weight. Nevertheless, Apatow and Davidson seem to be well aware of his strengths and weaknesses and the movie plays to them accordingly.

The King of Staten Island isn’t a great movie, but despite the comedy falling a bit short, it’s surprisingly entertaining and engaging, an exploration of a lost young man finding his way.   

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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