Movie News & Reviews

'Nick and Norah': infinitely immature

I'm sure many in their teens and 20s will think "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist" is just adorable. But I'm 32, and that adorable stuff doesn't win me over like it used to.

"Playlist" has Michael Cera as the Nick in this situation. He's the bassist of a constantly name-changing band, and he's still taking his girlfriend (Alexis Dziena) kicking him to the curb quite badly. He compiles mix CDs that he leaves at her doorstep in a last-ditch attempt to make her see the light. While his ex coldly throws them away, her classmate Norah (Kat Dennings) picks them up and becomes somewhat entranced by his musical tastes.

Nick and Norah's paths eventually cross on a busy New York night, as they and most of the city's youth go around town, searching for the venue that an eccentric, elusive rock group named Fluffy will be playing.

At times, the chemistry between the lead actors is both revealing and off-putting. Cera, who's made deadpan teen awkwardness his bread-and-butter, and Dennings, flaky as a Pillsbury Grands! biscuit but with lips for days, relay the initial, confrontational unease youngsters often project when they try to show their feelings for one another. As they get to know each other in Nick's canary-yellow Yugo, they let their guards down and start to wonder why they've never hooked up.

While Nick and Norah (I don't know why they're named after the happily married private dicks from the "Thin Man" movies) seem like genuine characters, nearly everyone else barely resembles people. Nick's ex is the standard selfish trollop, desperately trying to win him back after seeing him and archnemesis Norah lock lips, while Norah's on-again, off-again boyfriend (Jay Baruchel) is a skinny tie-wearing tool who just wants to pass along his band's CD to her music-exec dad. And when they're not looking for Fluffy, Nick and Norah also search for Norah's lush of a best friend (Ari Graynor, looking like a middle-aged Waffle House waitress), who escaped from the van of Nick's bandmates (Rafi Gavron and Aaron Yoo), who spend most of the movie thinking up filthy names for their group.

"Playlist" is basically "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" for Paste magazine readers, and unfortunately, I'm not a Paste reader. With an indie-rock soundtrack that could program a college radio station for a month, "Playlist" tries to drown out its shallow plot with gross-out gags and rampant hipsterism. (The script, based on David Levithan and Rachel Cohn's young-adult novel, is written by first-timer Lorene Scafaria, who is good friends with Oscar-winning "Juno" scripter Diablo Cody. Draw your own conclusion on that one.)

The thing I wondered most while watching this is how and why director Peter Sollett got involved. He already directed perhaps the best teen rom-com of the decade, "Raising Victor Vargas," in 2003. "Playlist" lacks the poignancy and character depth (not to mention minority faces) that "Vargas" had in spades. "Playlist" seems to be for those who thought "Vargas" was too real -- and too ethnic.

However, if you've ever wanted to see a movie where half the characters consume gum that was previously soaking in vomit and toilet water (it's a long, painful story), then "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist" is the bee's knees.

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