Sunday, October 19, 2008

Movies: Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist

If the shrill screams emanating from high schools everywhere haven't clued you in yet, High School Musical 3 opens in theatres on Thursday. If, however, you like your teen movies still musical but a little less glossy and Disneyfied, you can still catch Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, a sweet teen confection that opened a couple of weeks ago. (I would have reviewed it earlier, but I got swamped with the improbable temp assignment of assisting at a children's beauty pageant - yeah, I know. But times are tough and my dwindling checking account has to trump my moral outrage at this point.)

Playlist is exactly what you need it to be, nothing more or less. It's a sweet urban fairytale for the Gossip Girl generation, though being old enough to remember, gasp, the original 90210 shouldn't preclude you from enjoying it. The film follows the One Wild Night style of movie previously seen in Go, Clerks, Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, and the like. Nick and Norah meet, crazy adventures are had, and at the end of the night the bad guys are thwarted (the bad guys being, in this case, Alexis Dziena and Jay Baruchel as Nick and Norah's exes) and Nick and Norah end up happily ever after. That's only a spoiler if this is the first movie you've ever seen.

A few things about the movie. For starters, almost all of the funniest parts are in the trailer. That's not intended as a slam, but the movie is less knee-slapping than the trailer might lead you to believe. But that's okay, because it's quieter than most teen-aimed movies, and in many ways more interesting.

The cast is fantastic. Kat Dennings really shines. Her Norah veers between coltish awkwardness and cocksure snark, and unlike a lot of her contemporaries, she looks her age and she looks gorgeously healthy. Ari Graynor is hilarious as her partygirl best friend who gets to do some of the balls-out, gross-out humor that's usually reserved for the y-chromosome set. Michael Cera is, well, Michael Cera. His Nick isn't too different from his George-Michael Bluth or his Paulie Bleeker, though this time his nice guy affability is nicely undercut by a cranky, world-weary edge. Slight edge, almost infinitesimal, but it's there. It gives me hope for seeing more variety from Cera in the future.

One of my favorite things about Playlist is that it's both set and filmed in New York City. The latter makes a huge difference. During the climactic NYC-set fight scene in this summer's The Incredible Hulk, there was a point where one of the cops told the dispatcher they were on 121st, the street I lived on for three years. Needless to say, it looked a little too Toronto-y and pulled me from the movie. But Playlist makes use of a bevy of NYC landmarks, some I'm very familiar with - Veselka, Port Authority, Penn Station, Arlene's Grocery - and if they hadn't used the real deals, it would have showed. Granted, Port Authority gets a little spruced up, with subway-style benches and a departure board that were brought in just for the filming (the real deal is nowhere near as welcoming or navigable), but it's definitely Post Authority. This authenticity helps New York City assume the role of a supporting character, lending credibility to the One Wild Night concept as few cities specialize in crazy nights quite like Manhattan.

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist is a sweet, funny movie. It probably won't rock your world, but it will give you an enjoyable couple of hours, and in these suckass times, that's enough.


Sex Mahoney for President said...

I really enjoyed Kat Dennings in Charlie Bartlett and Michael Cera is always a treat. It will be nice to think of these times when he one day becomes an action hero.

Sex Mahoney for President

smd said...

Oh man, I totally forgot that was Kat Dennings in Charlie Bartlett. I love that movie and she was great in it.