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The King of Staten Island (2020) - Movie Review

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The King of Staten Island

There’s something about a Judd Apatow film that identifies itself almost immediately. Whether it’s gut-busting humor simply for the sake of making us laugh, or foul language and raunchiness with the sole intention of allowing us to be happy wallowing in our own consenting adulthood, his films have a special knack for tickling our funny bones and warming our hearts.

"the film’s biggest success comes from the heartfelt performance given by Davidson who perfectly balances his kid-at-heart sensitivity with a brilliant sense of comedic timing and flawless delivery"


And that’s certainly true of Apatow’s latest film called The King of Staten Island which he directs, produces, and co-writes. But there’s something different here which makes us realize that huge laughs and a warmed heart aren’t necessarily his primary goal with The King of Staten Island.

Sure, the king of bromance isn’t afraid to explore such weighty topics as alcoholism, drug abuse, growing old, and unwed pregnancy in his films, but he’s traditionally treated them with somewhat of a light and feathery touch that favors humor over drama. But here he’s willing to roughen up the edges a bit and go for strong emotion at the sacrifice of humor and lightheartedness by digging much deeper into the heartbreak of unresolved grief and depression. That’s not to say The King of Staten Island isn’t funny. With a constant barrage of rat-a-tat dialogue and a contagious sense of energy, it’s hard not to stay doubled over for most of the film’s runtime. But we also learn that humor can have another purpose: to help ease the pain. And boy, is there a lot of pain? {googleads}

The King of Staten Island is a semi-autobiographical film inspired by the life of star and co-writer Pete Davidson (SNL, The Angry Birds Movie) whose father was a fireman killed on duty during 9/11 when Pete was seven years old. As in real life, the film deals with the emotional struggle of how people process grief and deal with the act of moving on with their lives. And that’s where this film differs from most of Apatow’s earlier films. He’s more interested in forcing us feel something than he is making us laugh.

Davidson is Scott, a weed-smoking, unapologetically unmotivated 20-something hung up in a constant state of arrested development. He’d rather hang with his FWB Kelsey (Bel Powley, White Boy Rick) and stoner friends Oscar (Ricky Velez), Igor (Moises Arias), and Ritchie (Lou Wilson) than follow through with his dream of opening a Tattoo Restaurant. His younger sister Claire (Judd’s daughter, Maude Apatow) is ready to head off to college, leaving Scott alone with widowed mother Margie (Marisa Tomei), an overworked ER nurse.The King of Staten Island

Margie is ready to move on with her life, something Scott – still worshipping at the shrine of his deceased father – is unable or not yet ready to do. Emotionally numb, and ignorant to the consequences of his irresponsibility, Scott continues to make one bad decision after another, including practicing his tattoo artistry on a nine-year-old neighborhood kid which leads Scott’s mom to not only meet Ray (Bill Burr, The Mandolarian), a firefighter and the father of the young boy, but also forces Scott to finally deal with his grief and start the process of getting his life underway.

Aside from its big heart and impassioned soul, the film’s biggest success comes from the heartfelt performance given by Davidson who perfectly balances his kid-at-heart sensitivity with a brilliant sense of comedic timing and flawless delivery. He always meshes with his co-stars, each of whom is also operating at a high level. Especially memorable are Burr and Tomei whose characters are anything but relegated to the sidelines. Count me as a big fan of Davidson now looking forward to whatever he does next.

There’s a lot being said in The King of Staten Island, and much of it will resonate across a wide swath of audiences, especially those who have ever lost a loved one, felt stuck in a rut, or who live with mental health issues. Let’s just call this the funniest and most meaningful film Judd Apatow has done in a decade.

4/5 stars

The King of Staten Island


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The King of Staten Island

MPAA Rating: R for language and drug use throughout, sexual content and some violence/bloody images.
136 mins
: Judd Apatow
Judd Apatow & Pete Davidson & Dave Sirus
Pete Davidson, Bel Powley, Ricky Velez
: Comedy | Drama

Memorable Movie Quote: "We're like the only place that New Jersey looks down on."
Universal Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date:
June 12, 2020
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
Synopsis: Scott has been a case of arrested development since his firefighter dad died. He spends his days smoking weed and dreaming of being a tattoo artist until events force him to grapple with his grief and take his first steps forward in life.


The King of Staten Island

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