It is probably safe to say that just about everyone has seen a Judd Apatow film in their life, and by now knows what to expect from one. However, with The King of Staten Island, set to release June 12th On Demand through Universal Pictures, Apatow takes a bit of a different approach. The film is co-written with star and Saturday Night Live breakout Pete Davidson along with former Saturday Night Live Writer David Sirus, and tells the semi-autobiographical of Davidson’s life.
Scott, a 24-year-old who still lives at home with his mother, Margie (Marisa Tomei: My Cousin Vinny 1992, Spider-Man: Far From Home 2019) has yet to find any direction in life after the death of his firefighter father when he was just a boy. Though he dreams of being a tattoo artist, Scott spends most of his time smoking weed with his friends and secretly hooking up with lifelong friend Kelsey (Bel Powley: The Diary of a Teenage Girl 2015, A Royal Night Out 2015). When his ambitious younger sister Claire (Maude Apatow: Euphoria series 2019, This is 40 2012) heads off to college and his mother begins dating firefighter Ray (Bill Burr: Date Night 2010, Walk of Shame 2014), Scott must finally confront and tackle his trauma in order to finally start living rather than just existing.
Davidson (Set It Up 2018, The Dirt 2019) has often found his name write large in tabloids since bursting on to the SNL scene, where he became known for his self-deprecating humor that exposes larger truths. With The King of Staten Island, Davidson imagines the direction his life might have taken had he not found comedy. His stellar performance as Scott is the glue that holds the film together, though every performance is truly outstanding.
The King of Staten Island is a story filled with extremely flawed-but-likable characters, with Scott being the self-destructive planet each person revolves around. Every terrible decision Scott makes, from trying to tattoo a nine-year-old to destroying his mom’s relationship is hard to watch, and there are just a few too many of them that it becomes stale after awhile. Even so, failure after failure makes for learning experiences that make Scott’s attempt at getting himself together all the more powerful.
While there is plenty of R-rated humor to be had, much of that humor is undercut by grief. If you are expecting a riotous laugh-out-loud film like 2005’s The 40-Year-Old Virgin, you may be slightly disappointed. That said, the intensity and nuance with which Davidson portrays Scott should be more than enough to hold an audience’s attention. Maybe this approach in which the audience, too, is asked to so openly confront the traumatic root from which comedy often stems is what the genre needs right now.
The film does run quite long for a Comedy. Though it blurs the line between Comedy and Drama pretty heavily, 2 hours and 17 minutes is an eon in the Comedy world, and the second act especially drags. It is difficult to tell in this new world of at-home movie viewing if audiences expecting a tight 90 minute Comedy will struggle with this runtime.
Originally set to release in theaters on June 19th, but cancelled due to COVID-19, The King of Staten Island is only the second of Universal Picture’s to come to at-home delivery following the incredible success of Trolls World Tour. If you are looking for something new to break up the monotony of streaming service scrolling, do consider giving The King of Staten Island your time. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives this film 3.5 out of 5 stars.