7 Blog

Archive: Movies / Spokane and North Idaho

‘Hamilton’ musical a success even off the stage

Now that Disney+ is streaming the filmed version of the Broadway musical "Hamilton," Lin-Manuel Miranda's Tony Award-winning work is available to all of us. Following is my review for Spokane Public Radio:

Near the end of the musical “Hamilton,” following the fateful and fatal 1804 duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, the ensemble company comes together to pose three questions in song that could stand as a summation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s whole play.

“Who lives,” they sing, “who dies, who tells your story?”

Miranda, who spent seven years writing “Hamilton” and was just 35 when it opened on Broadway on Aug. 6, 2015, famously became interested in Hamilton while looking for a book to read on vacation. The tome he chose was Ron Chernow’s 800-plus-page biography of the man who, though not born on American soil, became one of the staunchest supporters of the U.S. Constitution and the first Secretary of the Treasury under George Washington.

Broadway extravaganzas don’t typically come via a hip-hop, racially and gender conscious format that blends magically realistic constructs with a page taken directly from American history. Yet as with all great art, Miranda was able to find a way to tell a story of yesterday and yet imbue it with a sense of style and substance that is purely today.

How high is the quality of that style? “Hamilton” was nominated for a record 16 Tony nominations, and it took home 11 of them, including Best Musical. Its success made tickets to any show, on Broadway or those of the various traveling productions, both hard to get and expensive to buy, 

Now, though, anyone interested in seeing “Hamilton” has only to go online and spend as little as $6.99 for a subscription to Disney-plus. It won’t be the same experience as sitting through a live production, of course, but it is the next best thing. Filmed over three consecutive nights in June 2016, with the middle show performed before an empty house, the film version of “Hamilton” features the original cast of talented actors, singers and dancers, augmented with something only movies can offer: camera shots that capture intimate moments even those sitting in, yes, thousand-dollar seats, couldn’t experience.

Miranda – who wrote the music, the lyrics and the book, plus cast himself in the title role – splits his musical into two acts. The first loosely follows Hamilton after his departure from his birthplace on the Caribbean island of Nevis to his arrival in New York, through his acquaintances with the likes of Burr and the Marquis de Lafayette, his falling in love with Eliza Schuyler – later Eliza Hamilton – his serving as aide-de-camp to Gen. Washington and the Continental Army’s victory at Yorktown.

The second act involves Hamilton’s quest to get the Constitution ratified, his serving as Treasury Secretary, his conflicts with Burr and Thomas Jefferson, a couple of personal tragedies and his final confrontation – the duel with Burr.

Throughout, the music has the big pulsing rhythms of Broadway, punctuated by the rat-a-tat hip-hop lyrics delivered with such skill by Miranda and his Tony Award-winning castmates, including Leslie Odom Jr. as Burr, Reneé Elise Goldsberry as Angelica Schuyler (Eliza’s sister) and Daveed Diggs playing both Lafayette and Jefferson.

And though recently Miranda has been criticized for not focusing more on the Founding Fathers’ imperious yet impersonal attitudes toward slavery, his musical as a whole offers a more honest and enduring look at the origins of the United States than a whole shelf of standard American histories.

Because Miranda’s “Hamilton” does far more than just tell the tale of one ambitious, arrogant yet well-meaning man. His casting of mostly black and latinx actors to play the roles of such real-life figures as Washington, Jefferson and Hamilton, is a statement of irony all by itself – one that says those who have been largely ignored by history will not remain so.

Yes, Goldsberry’s Angelica sings, “Every other founding father story gets told, Every other founding father gets to grow old.” And Odom Jr.’s Burr rejoins, “But when you’re gone, who remembers your name? Who keeps your flame? Who tells your story?”

Lin-Manuel Miranda says “I will.” And the story he tells extends to all of America, but especially to those whom history has so often overlooked.

Choose horror to escape your quarantine quagmire

No irony intended, but I typically distrust stories that begin with the pronoun "I."

And, yes, I fully intended to begin this blog post with that very same pronoun before thinking better of it.

Anyway, all self-aggrandizement aside, I was reading a story in Condé Nast Traveler this morning that began like this: "I first noticed the beauty of South Korea's landscape between the second and third zombie attacks."

Now who could resist continuing. The story, written by Caitlin Morton, goes on the list a number of foreign-language horror films that she is using to weather her inability to travel during this COVID-19 quarantine.

She listed the ways in which she had been spending her time, from practicing her guitar to reading to working out and cooking. But then she hit a wall. As she wrote, "(W)hile my aforementioned therapy sessions proved absolutely essential, I ended up turning to a familiar vice to help me get through each day: horror movies. Call me old-fashioned, but sometimes a girl needs to see a few vampire feedings to put things into perspective."

She mentions a number of American standards ("Halloween" and "Friday the 13th") before going on to Korean offerings ("Train to Busan") and one of my favorites, the 2008 original version of "Let the Right One In" (from Sweden).

All are worth checking out. And doing so just might prove therapeutic, as it did for Morton.

"The release they provided me was twofold," she wrote. "The emotionally intense horror gave me an escape from reality, while the foreign setting transported me from my location."

So remember: There is no "I" in travel. But there is in escapism.

Pure escapism: ‘CatVideoFest 2020’ meows big

Pet owners can be annoying. I know this because of what happened during a Zoom meeting I was having last night with some friends.

Right in the middle of a conversation, my cat walked in and I picked her up — she's beautiful, by the way — and I held her up for everyone to see. "Look at this beauty," I said. "Isn't she beautiful."

My cat just glared at the screen, her glorious green eyes throwing daggers.

But I digress.

Because what I really want to do is mention one of the films that is still streaming through the Magic Lantern. The film is "CatVideoFest 2020," which is one of the 32 films that you can access online by clicking on the theater's website. But the film, which is full of cute shots of kitties — and costs as little as .99 cents to rent — is more than mere entertainment, as the film's production notes explain:

" 'CatVideoFest' is committed to raising awareness and money for cats in need around the world. A percentage of the proceeds from each event go to local animal shelters and/or animal welfare organizations. In 2019, over $50,000 was raised for local shelters in addition to adoptions, fostering and awareness raised at shows."

So check it out. None of the cats are nearly as beautiful as mine, who naturally is named Bella, but some come close. And you're doing something charitable while engaging in your escapist venture.

Just as I do every time my precious walks into the room.

RIP Ennio Morricone, 1928-2020

One of the most significant features of Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns was the music.

Along with the likes of Clint Eastwood, Elis Wallach, Lee Van Cleef, Charles Bronson and even Henry Fonda, Leone would use the vast landscapes of Spain, all conveyed in wide-screen format, along with long takes, and repetitive sequencing, to affect his own style of the classic western.

But it was Morricone's music, which he wrote for a number of filmmakers, that remains most memorable. The man, who died today in Rome, created as many cinematic ear-worms as any movie composer ever.

Nominated six times for an Oscar, he won only once — in 2016 for Quentin Tarantino's "The Hateful Eight." (He was also awarded an honorary Oscar in 2007 for " his magnificent and multifaceted contributions to the art of film music.") If you saw "The Hateful Eight" in the theater as I did, you know that Tarantino began his film with a musical interlude that put Morricone's music front and center.

Take the time to listen to the YouTube video below to get a full feel for what Morricone managed to achieve over his long career.. The man is gone, but his music lives on.

Disney+ brings us ‘Hamilton’ (and a lot more)

I haven't had any reason to sign up for extra streaming services, what with the money I already pay to my cable service (though maybe not much longer) and to the services I already subscribe to (Netflix, Amazon Prime).

Until now, that is. Because signing up for Disney+ (or Disney Plus) was the only way to see the filmed stage version of "Hamilton."

My wife and I saw the actual traveling stage play when it came to Seattle a few years ago. And even though I was sitting in a nose-bleed seat at the Paramount Theatre, I ended up loving the show.

And so we did sign up for Disney+. And apparently we weren't the only ones. (Note: $6.99 a month gets you access to just that service, $12.99 a month gets you Hulu and ESPN+ as well. As of now, no "free trial" is being offered.)

That might be a bit of an expense for some, though viewers who have small children in the house might appreciate having access to all the programming that Disney offers, from the "Star Wars" collection to Disney classic movies.

And you can cancel anytime. So if you want to finally see "Hamilton," with its original cast, now's the chance.

‘7500’: Gordon-Levitt faces terror in the sky

One of the movie that we reviewed for "Movies 101" was the thriller "7500." Following is the separate review of the film that I wrote for Spokane Public Radio:

Flying is kind of far from my mind these days, though I can’t blame that feeling totally on the COVID-19 pandemic. Even before it was deemed to be unhealthy – even foolhardy – to fly in an airplane with passengers, some of whom are unmasked and sitting in some cases as close as a foot away and all of you breathing the same recycled air, the likelihood of long lines, cramped seats, bad food and delayed flights were a regular part of the airline experience.

So imagine my surprise when, while watching the movie “7500,” I was reminded of what used to be considered the biggest threat to air travel. And, no, I’m not talking about the computer problems involving the infamous Boeing 737 Max or mysterious disappearances such as that of the still-unfound Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

I’m talking about the threat of terrorist hijackings.

“7500,” which was written and directed by German-born filmmaker Patrick Vollrath, is a taut, 93-minute-long thriller that is set almost entirely – save for a brief prologue and the film’s final few seconds – in the cockpit of an Airbus A319. Taking his film’s title from the code used to denote a hijacking, Vollrath introduces us to Tobias Ellis (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), an American first officer working a night flight from Berlin to Paris.

Sitting aside the flight’s captain, Michael Lutzman (played by Carlo Kitzlinger, a real-life former pilot), Tobias goes through all the mundane, if important, pre-flight protocols that give “7500” its sense of authenticity. Everything changes, though, when minutes into the flight, three men charge the cockpit door and one manages to attack and stab Michael.

In the melee, Tobias, too, is wounded, though he manages to subdue one attacker and shut the door on the others. Then he’s left to deal with one unconscious hijacker, a desperately injured captain, a bleeding arm and a plane heading toward the ground while the other hijackers pound on the door and demand to be let in or they’ll kill the passengers and flight attendants.

In this situation, Vollrath is posing the question: What would WE do? And that query becomes especially urgent when the hijackers begin making good on their threats and, as we learned early on, Tobias has a particularly intimate relationship with one of the crew members.

“7500” is writer-director Vollrath’s first feature film, following a succession of shorts that includes his 2015 Oscar-nominated live-action short “Everything Will Be Okay.” That German-language film, too, has a claustrophobic feel as it involves a divorced father who kidnaps his young daughter and ends up holding her in a hotel room – and has some of the most intense closing minutes of any film I’ve ever seen.

Still, little is more claustrophobic than the cockpit of Vollrath’s Airbus, which gradually becomes littered with bodies – only some of which are still breathing. Added to that, Tobias’ situation becomes increasingly desperate as he tries to fly the plane, tend to his own wounds (physical AND emotional) and talk to those on the ground who direct him to make an emergency landing – all while that incessant pounding continues.

Gordon-Levitt, is one of those one-time child actors – he’s likely best known for the sitcom “3rd Rock From the Sun” – whose career was made over through his performances in such neo-noirs as 2005’s “Brick” and 2007’s “The Lookout.” Those films led to roles in much bigger movies such as Christopher Nolan’s 2010 thriller “Inception,” and producing and even directing credits (such as 2013’s “Don Jon”).  He’s the perfect casting choice here, believable both in his quiet moments as a professional aviator and then as a harried character facing the difficult consequences of a proverbial Hobson’s choice.

If there is a criticism to be made of “7500,” it comes mainly from the film’s avoidance of larger issues. Yes, the terrorist intentions of the would-be hijackers are philosophically based. Yet they serve mostly as the overall MacGuffin that Vollrath uses to fuel the film’s pulse-pounding action – and about as significant as the corpses left strewn on the jetliner’s entryway.

Still, if you’re looking for an intense hour and a half, “7500” might be what you want. If nothing else, you won’t be required to wear a mask – or made fun of if you choose to don one anyway.

Friday: What does John Lewis mean by ‘Good Trouble’?

As I posted last week, beginning on Friday, the Magic Lantern will begin streaming the documentary "John Lewis: Good Trouble."

Lewis, the U.S. Representative from Georgia's 5th District (now in his 17th term), is a longtime civil-rights proponent and one of the prominent activists dating back to the 1963 March on Washington.

Regarding the film, which was directed by Dawn Porter, New York Times critic Ben Kenigsberg wrote, "Although the film uses a conventional format, it makes an urgent argument: that a new wave of voter suppression has threatened the rights that Lewis labored to secure. That context gives older footage — of Lewis and Bond encouraging voter registration in 1971 in Mississippi, for instance — a renewed power."

Following the film, Oprah Winfrey will interview the Congressman in a 16-minute session filmed a month ago and made exclusive for this series of screenings. Those who purchase tickets for the July 9th screening will also be able to stream a live panel discussion presented (at 4:30 PDT) by the Montgomery, Ala., Freedom Rides Museum. Featured will be Freedom Riders Dr. Bernard Lafayette and Dr. Rip Patton in conversation with filmmaker Porter.

To pre-order "John Lewis: Good Trouble," click here. Funds raised go to help support the Spokane chapter of the NAACP.

Netflix adds classic movies, sports to July lineup

If you're a sports fan and you never got around to seeing the ESPN-produced documentary "The Last Dance," which in 10 episodes tells the story of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls' quest for a sixth NBA championship, then now might be the time to sign up for Netflix.

"The Last Dance" will be available for streaming on July 19th.

Here are some of the other notable (at least to me) films that Netflix will be adding to its lineup, all available on July 1:

"Airplane!": Can't ever get enough of this 1980 comedy by Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker.

"Mean Streets": Early Martin Scorsese (1973), starring Harvey Keitel and Robert De Niro.

"Schindler's List": This 1993 study of Oskar Schindler won Steven Spielberg his first Best Director Oscar.

"Ali": Michael Mann's 2001 biopic of Muhammad Ali features a convincing performance by Will Smith.

Netflix has a lot of other movies, television shows and original programming to watch. Click here to see what else is on the July calendar — and what will be leaving.

Biggest theater chains delay reopenings yet again

Considering that the COVID-19 pandemic isn't improving any (in fact, quite the opposite), it comes as no surprise that movie chains are delaying their projected reopenings.

Regal Cinemas, for example, had hoped to reopen its theaters on July 10. Now comes word that the company has pushed that date back to July 31. AMC, the world's largest exhibition company, announced it won't reopen until July 30.

Cineworld, the UK company that owns Regal Cinemas, said in a press release, “In line with recent adjustments to the schedule of upcoming movie releases, Cineworld will re-open its cinemas in the UK starting Friday July 31, subject to final clarifications and confirmation in relation to government COVID-19 restrictions.”

In the U.S., what with the upsurge in coronavirus cases in the country's most important markets — including Los Angeles and New York — the move to July 31 is being called "provisional."

Film release dates have shifted, too, among them Christopher Nolan's "Tenet" to Aug. 12 and Disney's live-action "Mulan" to Aug. 21.

"If the last couple of weeks have taught us anything, it’s that release dates are a continually moveable feast right now," wrote Tom Grater for Deadline.com. "Ultimately, distributors can only react to the situation they are presented with, and that is changing on an almost daily basis right now."

Regal Cinemas theaters in Spokane are at Northtown Mall, Spokane Valley Mall and Coeur d'Alene's Riverstone Stadium. AMC River Park Square is the immediate area's only AMC site. 

Jennifer Hudson set to star as Aretha Franklin

Many movies have been made about singing stars. Among the most recent are Elton John, played by Taron Egerton in "Rocketman," and Freddie Mercury, played by Rami Malek in "Bohemian Rhapsody."

One of the most powerful voices of the last half century, though, will be featured in the upcoming release titled "Respect." And that, of course, refers to the hit song by the great Aretha Franklin.

Casting for such movies is always problematic. Who, for example, could match the power and style of Franklin? The answer that director Liesl Tommy and the producers came up with seems like a good one: Jennifer Hudson, the singer who won a 2007 Best Supporting Actress Oscar for "Dreamgirls."

Depending on how things go with the COVID-19 quarantine, "Respect" is scheduled for a Dec. 30 big-screen release. The embed below, though, gives a quick tease as to what we can expect.

‘Never Rarely Sometimes Always’ a tough, quality view

I'd put off seeing the film "Never Rarely Sometimes Always" because I thought the theme, that of a young woman trying to get an abortion, was too dark to watch in this era of COVID-19 quarantine. But I relented, and I'm definitely glad I did.

Following is my review, which I wrote for Spokane Public Radio:

The struggle over abortion is one of the many issues that has split the United States into the polarized mess it’s become. And there’s no easy way to resolve the problem, what with one side claiming that abortion is about a woman’s right to choose what to do with her body and the other side defining it as the literal murder of babies.

Even the wise King Solomon would have trouble mediating that dispute.

Filmmaker Eliza Hittman likely has an opinion about which position holds the high moral ground. But in her film “Never Rarely Sometimes Always,” which she both wrote and directed, Hittman is less interested in campaigning for her point of view than she is in capturing the experience of a young woman who struggles to deal with the issue on a personal level.

Autumn (played by newcomer Sidney Flanigan) is a 17-year-old high-school student living in rural Pennsylvania. When we first meet her, she’s participating in a typical high-school pageant – the kind with Elvis impersonators and pop dance routines – playing an acoustic guitar and singing a song about the demands of love titled “He’s Got the Power.”

If that isn’t enough of a clue as to what has happened to Autumn, then the glass of water that she throws in the face of a smirking teen boy is. Followed by a predictable failed pregnancy test.

That use of the word “predictable,” though, is the only time I’ll use it in this review. Because besides being the most accomplished film I’ve seen this year, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” doesn’t go where anyone trained by Hollywood or TV melodrama would expect. The surprise that Hittman provides us is that there is no surprise, no big dramatic moment, just a series of naturally occurring, yet continually intense, sequences.

That splashed water incident, for example, never leads anywhere in particular. It simply makes the point that Autumn, though as naive about life as any 17-year-old, is no pushover. And that failed pregnancy test is what sets her on her determined course to obtain an abortion.

Yet she finds the process in Pennsylvania too difficult to navigate without a parent’s permission – and for reasons we can only guess at, Autumn doesn’t want to tell her parents anything. So, mustering their resources, she and her cousin Skylar (played by another fresh face, Talia Ryder), board a bus for New York, where the process promises to be easier. They lug with them a heavy suitcase that seems an improbable accessory except as a visual metaphor for the emotional baggage weighing on both girls.

And much of that baggage comes courtesy of the men in their lives, from Autumn’s man-child stepfather to her careless fellow schoolmates, from her creepy store manager to the guy on the bus who hits on Skylar, but most especially the guy whom they see fondling himself on the subway. But some of it, too, comes in the form of a bureaucracy that seems designed to thwart Autumn’s every effort to do what she wants.

That includes both the staff members of the hometown clinic, who lie to her about how far along her pregnancy is, and those at the clinic in New York, who – by necessity – force Autumn to spend two nights in the city, time she can’t easily waste waiting to have the procedure.

It’s in New York where Autumn is put through the interview that provides Hittman with her film’s title: She is asked a series of questions, to which she has to choose as an answer one of the following: Never Rarely Sometimes Always. And when asked whether anyone has ever forced her to have sex, Autumn – who for much of the film guards her emotions as if they were precious jewels – finally breaks, tears pushing from actress Flanigan’s eyes as she struggles even to mumble her replies.

That moment makes the question that her cousin had previously asked her all that more apt, not to mention profound.

“Don’t you ever just wish you were a dude?” Skylar asks.

“All the time,” Autumn answers.

‘Good Trouble’ is a tribute to John Lewis

Last year my wife and I took a road trip through the South. We flew to Memphis, then drove to Alabama, staying in Birmingham and Montgomery, before driving through Mississippi, spending the night in Oxford.

It was an educational trip, one that blended real places with the history that I had read about and the real-life incidents that I had watched unfold on television news reports.

One of those incidents involved the beatings of Freedom Riders, those civil-rights activists who rode on buses through the South in an attempt to flout the laws requiring the segregation of races. My wife and I toured the former Montgomery bus station, now a museum, in front of which one of the more notable beatings took place.

The one that involved John Lewis, one of the Freedom Riders who since 1987 has been serving in the U.S. Congress.

On July 3rd, the Magic Lantern will make available for streaming the documentary film "John Lewis: Good Trouble," directed by Dawn Porter, which explores Lewis' life and career as both a politician and as a social activist.

"It’s easy to look at 'John Lewis: Good Trouble' and be in awe of this statesman’s deeds, of what the octogenarian survived to advance civil rights in an America that fought him — and still fights him — at every turn," wrote critic Marc Bernardin in Entertainment Weekly.

Funds raised by the screening will go to help the Spokane chapter of the NAACP.

Magic Lantern continues to stream challenging cinema

Though the two main theater chains working Spokane and Coeur d'Alene have announced tentative opening dates — Regal on July 10th, AMC on or around July 15th — the issue is still uncertain with the area's other theaters.

There are exceptions, of course, in particular Colville's Auto-Vue Drive-In.

But at least the Magic Lantern Theater is offering a full lineup of streaming choices, many of which fulfill the arthouse's mission of presenting independent, foreign-language and mostly always challenging cinema.

Part of that mission, too, involves social awareness. To that end, the theater continues to offer through the end of June a package of films to stream, all of which focus on "cultural enrichment, economic development and social and racial justice." And which is why the money raised from rental of these films goes to help fund Spokane's Carl Maxey Center.

In addition, the Lantern continues to offer some 28 other movies, narrative and documentary, from all over the world as streaming options. And half of the rental price of those movies goes back to the theater itself.

So, until the theater opens its doors, it still is possible to see great cinema. And to help out a Spokane movie treasure in its time of need.

Below: "The Wild" will stream in a special event at 7 Thursday night through the Magic Lantern. Click here to buy virtual tickets.

Lantern to screen ‘The Wild’ doc on Thursday

Aside from the rest of its streaming schedule, the Magic Lantern Theater is scheduling a special documentary event on Thursday that carries an urgent ecological appeal.

That appeal involves the documentary film "The Wild," directed by Mark Titus, which which will be shown in a "live" virtual screening at 7 p.m. Thursday. Joining Titus in a live-stream interactive event will be climate-change artist Zaria Forman, wilderness photographer Drew Hamilton, Chad Brown and Everette Anderson.

According to the theater's press release, "An urgent threat emerges to spur filmmaker Mark Titus ('The Breach') back to the Alaskan wilderness — where the people of Bristol Bay and the world's largest wild salmon runs face devastation if Pebble Mine, a massive copper mine is constructed."

For an overview of the film and why Titus made it, click here.

Click here to purchase a virtual ticket. Cost: $13.21. Funds raised will be shared with the Magic Lantern.

The Wild Official Trailer from Mark Titus on Vimeo.

Davidson’s ‘Staten Island’ plays well for SNL fans

My latest movie review was of "The King of Staten Island," which I wrote for Spokane Public Radio:

If you’re a fan of “Saturday Night Live,” you know who Pete Davidson is. He’s the tattooed kid whose characters include a version of his actual self on Weekend Update, and the clueless Chad, who as a concert roadie famously almost makes out with Jennifer Lopez.

Davidson also has been the target of tabloid news articles by being involved in real life with, among others, the actresses Margaret Qualley and Kate Beckinsale and the singer Ariana Grande.

Along with all that, he’s been nominated by a number of commentators as being the next celebrity most likely to self-destruct. That’s because, for all his apparent talent, which earned him the SNL spot at the tender age of 20, he often seems as vulnerable and guileless as a child – no easy traits for someone continually in the public eye.

His apparent frailty might just be perception, though, part of the act that Davidson himself has embraced as a central factor of his standup comedy routine. It’s certainly part of the role he plays in “The King of Staten Island,” the Judd Apatow-directed movie that I streamed through Amazon Prime.

Co-written by Davidson, Apatow and Dave Sirus – the latter-most a former SNL staff writer – “The King of Staten Island” works as a kind of film à clef, in which real life is depicted, as the dictionary says, behind a “façade of fiction.”

So the setting, obviously, is the New York borough of Staten Island. Our protagonist is Scott Carlin (played by Davidson), a 24-year-old high school dropout who lives with his mother Margie (Marisa Tomei), who is a nurse, and his college-bound sister (played by director Apatow’s daughter, Maude Apatow). Unable, or unwilling, to hold down a job, Scott mostly hangs out with his friends, shares the occasional bout of lovemaking with his not-actual-girlfriend Kelsey (played by Bel Powley) and dreams of being a tattoo artist – and of, improbably, opening a combination tattoo den-slash-restaurant.

Everything changes when, during one particularly irresponsible moment, he agrees to give a 9-year-old neighbor kid a tattoo, which leads to the kid’s father, Ray (played by comic Bill Burr), coming to Scott’s house and complaining to his mother. This leads to Ray's returning to the house and romancing Margie, a fact that – when he finds out – disgusts Scott, who then does everything he can to disrupt the relationship before it goes any further.

A lot of other stuff happens, too, such as Kelsey’s insistence that she and Scott define their relationship, Scott getting a part-time job at an Italian restaurant and having to literally fight for tips, Scott’s friends getting the stupid idea to rob a pharmacy – which leads to one of the film’s more serious sequences – and with Scott getting up close and personal both with Ray’s kids (including the boy to whom he tried to give a tattoo) and with the crew of a local firehouse.

That last plotline is particularly important to Scott as his own father, once a firefighter himself, had died years before in a hotel blaze.

Much of this mirrors Davidson’s real life. His mother is a school nurse, he grew up in Staten Island, his real-life father was one of the 343 firefighters who died when the Twin Towers fell on 9/11. And as Davidson has made clear in various interviews, making “The King of Staten Island” has worked as a kind of therapy for him (in fact, Apatow dedicates the film to Davidson’s father, Scott).

But if that sounds as if the film is in any way a downer, that’s true only if the kind of comedy that Davidson and Apatow present is not to your tastes. Much of the humor feels like something written by Kevin Smith, punctuated by a lot of profanity and SNL-type skit humor designed to evoke out-loud laughter.

At the same time, “The King of Staten Island” boasts its own kind of awkward charm, the kind generated by focusing on a confused but basically good-hearted character who – slow to understand what he can be in life – is ultimately redeemed by his inherent sense of innocence.

Which, underscoring everything else, clearly is a role that was Pete Davidson’s destiny to play.