Don’t watch director and co-writer Judd Apatow’s “The King of Staten Island” (Universal) expecting to yuck it up over the goofy antics of man-child Scott (Pete Davidson). Sure, there are jokes, including several at the expense of Staten Island. But don’t kid yourself; this is serious stuff.
As co-written by Davidson, Scott is an affable, directionless 24-year old wannabe tattoo artist with ADD who has never properly dealt with the death of his fireman father when he was seven. He still lives at home with his nurse mother Margie (Marisa Tomei) and younger sister Claire (Maude Apatow). He wastes most of his time getting wasted with drug dealer buddy Oscar (Ricky Velez) and dead-end pals Igor (Moises Arias) and Richie (Lou Wilson). Kelsey (Bel Powley) is Scott’s regular sex partner, but her patience with him is running short due to his lack of commitment to her and his non-existent ambition in life.
It’s not like there aren’t people around who want to help. Before Claire leaves for college, she gives Scott a paint set to encourage him to work on his artistic skills. Joe (Kevin Corrigan), a relative who owns a restaurant, offers Scott a job as a busboy, which he reluctantly accepts, leading to some funny scenes.
Everything changes, however, when Ray (Bill Burr), the fireman father of Harold (Luke David Blumm), a nine-year-old boy Scott attempts to tattoo, shows up at Margie’s door demanding an explanation and reparations. Ray is attracted to Margie and, it turns out that Margie has a type – firemen. Predictably, Scott is less than thrilled that the man who threatened to come after him for what he did to his son is now courting his mother. Things worsen when, as Margie and Ray’s relationship progresses, Scott is told he’ll have to get his own place to live.
Ray is attracted to Margie and, it turns out that Margie has a type – firemen.
Things reach a fever-pitch after Scott meets with Ray’s ex-wife Gina (Pamela Adlon) for dirt on him to sabotage the relationship. This dumb move backfires on Scott when he and Ray get into a physical altercation witnessed by Margie who tosses them both out of her house. With nowhere to go, Scott ends up crashing at the fire station where Ray is based, and to Ray’s dismay is taken under the wing of the crew, led by Papa (Steve Buscemi). Slowly, but surely, even with a few detours (including a botched pharmacy robbery), Scott gets his proverbial shit together.
At least 20 minutes too long, “The King of Staten Island” overstays its welcome on the throne. That said, anyone familiar with Davidson knows that his father was a fireman who died on 9/11. Nevertheless, Davidson gives a strong performance, proving himself as an actor, even though he’s essentially playing a version of himself. Tomei continues to redeem herself, outlasting the curse of her questionable 1992 Oscar win. Best of all, Apatow assembled a remarkable supporting cast, including Powley, Buscemi, Velez, and Adlon, as well as Lynne Koplitz (as Margie’s sister Joy), and gave them something of substance with which to work.