Friday, June 12, 2020

'The King of Staten Island' proclaims some comic relief for the masses

Davidson and Buscemi have a serious moment at a real 'Staten Island' blaze. 
Work yourself through the first 10-15 minutes of shiftless pals in "The King of Staten Island," the latest comedy from director (and co-writer) Judd Apatow, and you'll likely have a pretty good time at the movies (or, for now, on your local VOD service).

Sure, "SNL" mainstay Pete Davidson mostly plays himself, and Apatow ("Knocked Up," "Funny People," "Trainwreck") once again has no clue how to end an overlong movie. Still, a good ensemble cast and the director's ability to discover his trademark heart among all the hard-"R" humor combine to lift "The King" until it simply just runs out of steam.

Davidson's Scott Ready, still dealing with the death of his fireman dad during an ill-fated hotel/fire rescue after almost 20 years, obviously has some deep-seated issues. As you might know, so does the sometimes seriously funny Davidson, whose late-night Saturday appearances (since 2014) have included jokes about how he still lives with his widowed mom (yes, in Staten Island) after his own father Scott became one of five members with NYC Ladder 118 to lose their lives as Twin Towers first responders on 9-11.

The heavily inked Ready, who is just as self-effacing about his problems as the man portraying him, does have some dreams, though. A big one has him owning a combo tat palace/restaurant he would call "Ruby Tattoosday." And, can you believe it? Scott's heavy leaning toward body art amusingly leads his attractive, hard-working mother (Marisa Tomei) to start dating again.

Naturally, Scott easily butts heads with the potential second man around the house. No surprise, the guy's a fireman (nicely played by comic Bill Burr) and, ridiculous as it sounds, the association introduces a kind of firehouse camaraderie to the troubled 24-year-old's life.

Two well-acted young women become strong influences in the movie as well. Maude Apatow (the director's talented daughter) chews up some emotional scenery as Scott's smart college-bound sister, while ever-on the mark Bel Powley is the-wild-about-him girl from Staten Island (''the only place that New Jersey looks down on").

Finally, there's good reason why Steve Buscemi seems like a natural as the fire-squad commander that lets Scott hang around the station. The first time I interviewed him (for a little movie he also wrote and directed called "Trees Lounge"), the great man told a couple of equally fine stories about his five years as an NYC fireman. Here, Buscemi's "Papa" not only gets to tell Scott some genuine firefighting tales, but paraphrases a line that might sum up universal feelings about Davidson's own persona: "He's so likable, he gets away with a lot."

Rated "R" by MPAA: language and drug use throughout, sexual content and some violence/blood images; 2:16; $ $ $ out of $5

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