Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist
Sony Pictures // PG-13 // $39.95 // February 3, 2009
Review by Adam Tyner | posted February 27, 2009
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Recommended
E - M A I L
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R E V I E W S
Graphical Version
Why waste
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all that time waiting around for love at first sight? Norah (Kat Dennings) fell for Nick (Michael Cera) without ever even having chatted up the guy. Nick's been bombarding his ex (Alexis Dziena) with one mix CD after another in the hopes of rekindling that spark -- he's up to volume 12 in the "Road to Closure" series -- and Norah's been grabbing 'em as Tris chucks them in the garbage. The overly elaborate homebrew cases and inspired indie rock tracklists were crushworthy enough for Norah without even knowing what Nick looks like. Turns out that Nick's thumping away on a bass as the only straight member of a queercore outfit she catches in the city, and their meet-cute spirals into a couple of early AM searches throughout the Big Apple. They're keeping an eye out for a sloshed best friend (Ari Graynor) and a secret show by the way-underground Where's Fluffy?, but what do they really find? Sugary sweet, doe-eyed love, as if I really need to spell that out.

One of the most intriguing things about Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist is how low-key it generally is. It doesn't dive all that much into big, broad laughs like Superbad, and although it has its moments, it's not nearly as aggressively quirky as Juno. At the end of the day, the story's pretty incidental, really only there to nudge along the very cute and charming romance that's budding between Nick and Norah. Instead of just being stock lovebirds yanked out of the Big Book of Teen Romantic Comedy Clichés, the two of them come across as -- gasp! -- actual people with genuine, distinctive personalities. There's also a very believable awkwardness as they fumble through this night together.

Nick and Norah
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are engaging enough individually to snag my attention no matter what plot points they happened to be waltzing through, and the breezy pace of the movie is shouldered by their remarkable chemistry whenever the two of them are onscreen together. Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist skews more towards the "romantic" than the "comedy" end of this equation, and it's the smaller, quieter moments in between the gags that really endeared the movie to me. Really, the story just seems to get in the way a lot of the time, and the obligatory speedbumps in the romance seem to be tossed in just because that's how the formula for a teen movie is supposed to unspool. Its sense of humor can also be hit or miss. F'r instance, I'm not so much in the "vomit is funny!" camp, but when Caroline pukes in a train station bathroom, sifts through the commode to grab her gum, and chucks it back in her mouth...ack. I have limits.

I guess I was expecting to be dazzled a bit more, but that's okay. While I can take or leave a lot of the set dressing -- occasionally clunky jokes and force-fed quirky hijinks -- the pillar that's holding up Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist is the awkwardly blossoming romance between its two title characters, and that foundation is rock solid. I was really sucked into all of its characters, virtually every last one of whom feels genuine and sincere rather than microwaving leftover stock clichés. The strength of that characterization and the spark of this cast makes for a heck of a combination, and I dug them enough that I'd watch these characters no matter what plot points were shoved in front of them. This is such a sweet, adorable movie that I don't find myself wanting to review Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist so much as give it a cartoonishly oversized bear hug. Recommended.


Video
I really love the way Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist looks on Blu-ray, but standard issue home theater eye candy it's not so much. The photography isn't polished to some sort of glossy sheen; it's gritty and grainy, contrast flattens out under low light, and the 1.85:1 image leans a bit soft. Considering that the movie's set almost entirely in the space of one frantic night, though, that visual style lends it a sense of immediacy that really works in its favor. There's still an extraordinarily strong sense of definition -- there's no mistaking the level of clarity and detail showcased here for a standard-def DVD -- and the predominately warm palette packs a pretty decent wallop. Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist wouldn't be my first choice to grab off the shelf to show off my overpriced home theater rig, but I'd chalk myself up as a fan of its run-and-gun visual aesthetic, and the movie really does look terrific in high definition.

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Audio
Music. Conversation. The Big Apple. It (hopefully!) goes without saying that Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist isn't a flick with megaton explosions rattling the room or anything, but its 16-bit Dolby TrueHD track pounds out exactly what it needs to. The surrounds are kept chattering throughout, fleshing out the hustle and bustle you'd expect from a movie set against the backdrop of a sprawling metropolis. The college radio soundtrack spreads out comfortably across this six-channel mix and can be pretty punchy, especially during the live sets, and the film's dialogue is consistently rendered cleanly and clearly. It's exactly the sort of sound design a movie like this screams out for. Oh, and Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist scores bonus points for putting members of Redd Kross and that dog. on the soundtrack.

A couple other lossless tracks have been piled onto this Blu-ray disc too: one in French and another in Portuguese. A Dolby Digital 5.1 dub in French has been tacked on as well alongside subtitles in English (traditional and SDH), Spanish, French, Portuguese, Arabic, and Dutch. Even the commentaries are subtitled in French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Dutch.

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Extras
  • Audio Commentaries: Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist tosses on two commentary tracks. For the first, director Peter Sollett is joined by authors Rachel Cohn and David Levithan along with screenwriter Lorene Scafaria. Considering the crowd that's scattered in front of these microphones, it follows that the conversation mostly swirls around the collaborative writing process behind the original book, the inspiration-slash-mindset behind certain key characters and plot points, and finding some way to translate all of this material to an hour and a half-ish, PG-13 flick. This isn't a conventional audio commentary, no, but I really dug it.

    The other track features Sollett and actors Michael Cera, Kat Dennings, and Ari Graynor, and this one's packing a gimmick: a telestrator. It's just something they sporadically goof around with, scribbling down "sexy" or trying (and failing!) to draw fake moustaches. This is a quippy, overcaffeinated track that's nothing but non sequiturs and completely random stories about Kat Dennings having her top yanked off, flan chatter, Michael Cera understandably being mistaken for Denzel Washington, squirming next to their parents while suffering through sex scenes, and nods to the best places in the Big Apple to pick up pierogies and dill pickle soup or something. Insightful? Nah, but it's a heckuva lot of fun anyway.

  • Storyboard Animations (9 min.): Six months after Nick and Norah...'s cameras finished rolling, Peter Sollett and company went back to tackle some reshoots. The storyboards for a sequence better setting up the backstory is included along with a version of the club scene that mixes live-action footage with newly-sketched boards. There's optional commentary over all of this too, noting just how much things veered away from the storyboards once the new intro was actually shot as well as the technically ingenious way footage shot six months apart was seamlessly blended together.

  • Deleted / Extended Scenes (9 min.): More of a homeless Andy Samberg making not-so-veiled homosexual advances toward Nick! More of Caroline puking! More people pestering Norah with their demos! A faux-crucified Christ trying to hit the head! An unrelenting barrage of janitorial "aw, hell no!" It kind of plays like the line-o-rama bits from the Judd Apatow crowd, really.

  • Outtakes (4 min.): A better-than-average outtake reel crams together the usual blown lines and bursts of laughter along with spontaneous growling and some pissed-off schlub plowing past the sweetly romantic finale on his way to work.

  • Faux Interview with Michael Cera, Kat Dennings, and Eddie Kaye Thomas (3 min.): Wow! With a title like that, do you really need me to scribble down a review? Really, it's just a few minutes straight of Eddie Kaye Thomas -- who plays a burlesque Jesus in the flick -- poking fun at what a lousy leading lady Kat Dennings is.
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  • Ari Graynor's Video Diary: A Look Behind the Scenes (4 min.): Kat Dennings' on-screen BFF kept a camcorder running during rehearsals and in-between shots, capturing a bunch of clowning around and giving a sense of just how playful the vibe on the set must've been.

  • A Nick and Norah Puppet Show (5 min.): Kat Dennings grabs a stack of homemade cardboard cutouts and crams Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist down to four minutes and change, only this time with...y'know, a bear.

  • Music Video (3 min.): A Nick and Norah... themed video for Bishop Allen's "Middle Management" has also been tossed on here.

  • Peter Sollett's Photo Album (HD): This pretty decent sized still gallery is as close to a high-def extra as Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist gets.

  • BD Live / Cinechat: Selecting the BD Live icon on the menu didn't seem to do much of anything for me other than leave my PS3 spinning its wheels and forcing me to restart the disc. Oh well. The disc's other online-enabled feature is Cinechat: think AIM built straight into your Blu-ray deck if you feel up to some sort of text messaging movie party.

  • Nick and Norah's Interactive Playlist: The flipside of the case boasts that this extra will let you cobble together and share your own playlists of songs from the flick, but all it seemed to do for me was launch a loading graphic that never went anywhere.

  • Digital Copy: A second disc in the set includes a standard-def copy for play on PCs, Macs, iPods, PSPs...you know the drill.

The Final Word
Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist kind of plays like an indie rock mixtape, really. The movie's not clawing for something big, booming, and deliriously over the top. No, it's about the inescapable allure that the smaller moments have to offer. The appeal of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist really isn't its story or its sense of humor; it lives and dies on Michael Cera and Kat Dennings, and I was hopelessly sucked into their characters' breezy romance that's bubbling on-screen. While it's not the movie I strolled in expecting, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist is a really cute, charming, and startlingly sincere teen romance, and it kept a beaming smile plastered across my face for an hour and a half straight. Recommended.


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