‘The King of Staten Island’ Review: Not a Typical Judd Apatow Film

The King of Staten Island

Judd Apatow’s latest film is available on PVOD today, June 12, and I had the chance to preview it early last week. I should start by saying that I’m a huge fan of Apatow’s films. From Forgetting Sarah Marshall (of which I have the film’s poster on the wall next to me right now) to Bridesmaids to 40-Year-Old Virgin, Apatow’s films are consistently entertaining with a comedic timing that feels almost like an art form. I should also note that I’m not a big Pete Davidson fan. So I went into this movie with mixed feelings about what I should expect.

At a high level, The King of Staten Island is a comedy about life, love, and loss. Pete Davidson plays Scott, a mid-twenties character who isn’t doing much with his life. He wants to be a tattoo artist, but he doesn’t have much ambition or much desire to better his situation. His firefighter father died when Scott was seven, and it’s clear that Scott has a lot of unresolved emotions attached to the loss that have stunted his personal growth. He spends his day smoking weed, hanging out with his friends, and hooking up with his childhood friend who is secretly in love with him.

When Scott’s mom (played by Marisa Tomei) starts dating again, Scott is anything but happy. The new man, Ray (played by Bill Burr), is also a firefighter, and his presence in the family’s life means that Scott has to deal with his grief is he’s going to move forward in life.

Take a look at the trailer below.

The King of Staten Island Review: What I Did and Didn’t Like

Davidson does a fine job tackling this emotionally troubled character, yet I still didn’t feel invested in him. It could be because I’m just not a fan of his, or it could be the character himself (who just repeatedly shows TERRIBLE judgment), but I just didn’t feel an attachment to Scott, which ultimately made this film fall flat for me.

Burr also does a solid job in tackling Ray, even though Ray doesn’t seem like a far stretch from Burr’s typical persona. Still, it’s easy to lose Bill Burr as a comedian in the role (if you’re familiar with Burr’s standup).

As far as other standout cast-members, they all feel pretty even-kill. The script doesn’t really provide many opportunities to shine, even though it does produce a good story overall. There are some good laughs, but they’re few and far between. It honestly doesn’t feel much like a comedy at all. The film traverses a landscape of loss, grief, and mental and physical illness (Scott has Crohn’s disease in addition to mental health issues). Not to mention, Scott makes terrible decision after terrible decision (he gives a child a tattoo – which is just one of the many decisions he makes that leaves you asking, WTH?). The film revolves around several serious topics, and if the goal is to infuse these moments with a little humor, the writing doesn’t successfully accomplish it. It feels like the film is searching for its identity as much as Scott is searching for his. For me, I would have enjoyed it more if it was a drama and dove deeper into the topics it presents.

Overall

The King of Staten Island does have heart, a good story, and moments of comedic gold, but overall, the film falls short of the bar that Judd Apatow’s previous films have set. The film is roughly 30 minutes too long and moves at a grueling pace, which, if you’re not a fan of Pete Davidson, makes you feel all the more annoyed at his character. Despite moments of charm, this one wasn’t for me.

The King of Staten Island Review:

Grade: C+

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