Thanks to Arrested Development, Superbad et al, Michael Cera is the poster boy for geek-chic awkwardness.
On the evidence of this coming-of-age comedy, it doesn’t look like he’s giving up that payday schtick anytime soon. But after the turkey that was Year One, at least the lad is back on his game as apathetic teen virgin Nick Twisp, who hopes to pop his cherry and escape life with Ma (Jean Smart) and her oik boyfriend (Zach Galifianakis).
Falling hard for trailer-park minx Sheeni (Portia Doubleday), Nick plots to be with her by getting thrown out of home for delinquency. So he dreams up a bad-boy alter ego, Francois Dillinger (Cera with blue contacts), who rocks a pencil moustache, Gauloises fags and a louche attitude to the law. Like a pastel-wearing Tyler Durden, Francois is soon blowing shit up and getting Nick both into trouble and into knickers…
Based on CD Payne’s cult novel, Youth borrows liberally: delivered deadpan, the arch dialogue echoes Juno; while the horniness and (occasional) sweetness evoke American Pie and John Hughes respectively. Throw in rollicking support (Hangover slob du jour Galifianakis, stoner Justin Long and a naked Fred Willard), a part-animated magic mushrooms skit and a girls’ school sleepover straight out of St Trinian’s, and you’ve got a 15-year-old boy’s idea of movie heaven. But Cera manages to bring the extra something that makes this an unexpectedly appealing movie for both genders.
While his trademark little-lamb cuteness is a given when playing nerdy Nick, there’s a certain kick to be had from the arrogance of his Francois. Not only does the latter incarnation bag all the best lines (“I’m going to wrap your legs around my head and wear you like the crown you are,” he purrs at one point), he may even prove to be an unsuitable guilty crush.
Ladies, is it so wrong to fancy a man who’s wearing white loafers and slacks?
Whimsical, saucy, funny and achingly embarrassing, this is a beguiling if derivative goodboy- spins-out farce. But Cera really should make this his dweeb swansong lest he outstay his welcome.