Genre: Romantic Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 30 min.
Release Date: October 3rd, 2008 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Peter Sollett Actors: Michael Cera, Kat Dennings, Ari Graynor, Alexis Dziena, Jay Baruchel, Aaron Yoo, Rafi Gavron
ick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” has some charm, but it unsuccessfully tries to recreate the ingenuity and cleverness of 2007’s “Juno” (though this new venture is adapted from a novel by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan). Chock full of “hip” teen banter and parleys, hopelessly inelegant characters discovering meant-to-be romances, and gross-out gum-chewing yucks, the film feels like it’s promoting indie bands more than telling a story. Plotted out similarly to “American Graffiti,” “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” pretends that audiences are already intimately familiar with the abundance of stereotypical supporting characters, most of which are overused or too trivial to be concerned with, as if every viewer shared the same high school experiences.
High school senior Nick (Michael Cera) is dumped by the girl of his dreams Tris (Alexis Dziena) after having dated for six months. As he laments over his loss, his friends and band members (The Jerkoffs originally, although the later contemplation of the name A Fistful of Assholes is more appropriate) take him out for a wild night on the town. In an attempt to take his mind off Tris, they coordinate reluctant Norah (Kat Dennings) to accompany him all over town as they try to pinpoint the performing location of everyone’s favorite band, called Where’s Fluffy.
The film is very fast-paced, getting right into the night of cavorting as Nick, Norah, and all of their friends simultaneously search for clues to find “Fluffy” and track down Norah’s drunk pal Caroline (Ari Graynor). With little introduction to the many characters, it’s obvious that moviegoers are supposed to be comfortable with them and accept the way they treat one another, as if they’re equivalents of corresponding, real-life acquaintances. And that’s not too far off, considering Michael Cera is always cast as himself and Kat Dennings reprises a role almost identical to her turn in “Charlie Bartlett.” Neither star has much range.
In the background is the notion of going off to college, much in the same way that George Lucas’ “American Graffiti” maps out the last night of merriment for a group of kids concerned over future endeavors. And on the surface is a classic love story about two play-by-their-own-rules young adults who must discover that they’re perfect for each other. Many moments have a sustainable amount of authenticity, but overall, the common teen formula for lost love and blooming romance tires quickly; there’s not enough fresh material to warrant a feature film.
Although the plot and the lead characters themselves have enough charm to spread over the 90-minute runtime, the supporting roles and comic relief are often repetitive and dry. Several dragging scenes focus solely on the adventures of the inebriated Caroline, who frequently chooses poorly when retrieving the gum she chews throughout the film. That one gag gets the queasy laughs, but the gimmick doesn’t stick when it’s repeated over and over again. The dialogue that accompanies many humorous scenes is also screaming of uninspired imitations of Diablo Cody’s now signature language (Cody would in fact attend the picture’s premiere).
Mixed signals and jealousy fuel the events of the night, as do light-hearted romance and PG-13 suppressed sensuality. Cera and Dennings’ chemistry is convincing enough, but nothing about “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” suggests the originality necessary for an affective piece. About the only thing that really stands out after the credits role is just how unsanitary gum chewing can be.
– Mike Massie