‘Big Time Adolescence’
Paying in the U.S. Dramatic competition at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Running time: 90 minutes. Tuesday, Jan. 29, 9:15 a.m., The Ray Theatre, Park City; Thursday, Jan. 31, 11:30 a.m., Prospector Square Theatre, Park City; Friday, Feb. 1, 6:15 p.m., Grand Theatre, Salt Lake City; Saturday, Feb. 2, noon, Library Center Theatre, Park City.
I enjoy Pete Davidson on “Saturday Night Live” as much as the next person, but the coarse coming-of-age comedy “Big Time Adolescence” is proof that Davidson’s abrasive stoner persona is best consumed in small doses.
Writer-director Jason Orley structures his story around the oft-repeated device: The wacky bad influence. That’s Davidson’s character, Zeke, a 23-year-old slacker who is the best friend of the movie’s protagonist, 16-year-old Monroe Harris (Griffin Gluck, the kid brother from “Why Him?”). The movie starts with the “You’re probably wondering how I got here…” framing device, in which Monroe is being taken out of school by a police escort.
Monroe, who goes by Mo, doesn’t hang out much with his peers, preferring to hang out at Zeke’s rundown house to play video games, drink beer and learn pearls of wisdom from Zeke, his pals (one of them played by the rapper Machine Gun Kelly), and his girlfriend Holly (Sydney Sweeney). Mo’s parents (Jon Cryer and Julia Murney) can’t understand why Mo hangs out with the ex-boyfriend of Mo’s older sister Kate (Emily Arlook), but don’t do much to rein him in.
One example of Zeke’s questionable help: When Mo develops a crush on classmate Sophie (Oona Lawrence), Zeke delivers advice on how to woo her and then “ghost” her. And another: When school pal Will (Thomas Barbusca) asks Mo for help acquiring booze so they can get into senior-class parties, Mo goes to Zeke for help — and Zeke does one better, providing marijuana to sell to the suburban kids.
Orley makes space for some funny moments, particularly by Davidson and Barbusca. But the script travels down all the awkward and irresponsible directions you would expect, once the premise is established and plays out to its foreshadowed conclusion — by which time, Davidson’s stoner mannerisms have grown stale. (I would, however, love to hear Davidson and John Mullaney review the movie, the way they did “The Mule.”)