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King of Staten Island, The
Judd Apatow is an ambitious filmmaker who frequently gives comics starring roles in his original films. His latest project is The King of Staten Island, which stars Pete Davidson of "Saturday Night Live" fame. Written, produced and directed by Apatow, the film is a semi-biographical story about its star, who lost his firefighter father on September 11, 2001, and has publicly struggled with depression. Perhaps not as poignant as Funny People or as funny as The 40-Year-Old Virgin, The King of Staten Island is still a worthy rambling on finding one's self and moving past hardship. Davidson gives a compelling performance, and is joined by a strong supporting cast, including Marisa Tomei, Bill Burr, Steve Buscemi and Kevin Corrigan. Universal was wisely more truthful in its marketing of this film, avoiding the pitfalls it faced selling Funny People as a straight comedy. Unfortunately, the film saw its theatrical release canceled amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Hopefully, The King of Staten Island can find new life and an audience on home media.
Twenty-four-year-old high school dropout Scott Carlin (Davidson) lives with his mom Margie (Tomei) and sister Claire (Maude Apatow) on Staten Island and spends most days smoking weed and tooling around with friends, including Kelsey (Bel Powley), with whom he is sleeping. Scott wants to be a tattoo artist, but his talents do not appear marketable. His neuroses and depression force him to keep Kelsey at arm's length and concern Claire, who is set to leave for college. The family lost their patriarch several years earlier when Scott's dad died in the line of duty fighting a fire. Since then, Scott has not been able to get unstuck from neutral, and Margie realizes she has enabled him. When Scott tries to give a 9-year-old boy, Harold (Luke David Blumm), a tattoo, the boy's father, Ray Bishop (Burr), comes to Scott's house and yells at Margie. Ray returns the next day to apologize and asks Margie to go for coffee. The pair begin dating, but Scott does not immediately take to Ray. When Scott is asked to walk Harold and his sister to school, he meets Ray's ex-wife, Gina (Pamela Adlon), who has few nice things to say about Ray. Margie soon grows tired of Ray and Scott's fighting, and tells them both to leave her house until they can grow up.
As with other Apatow films, The King of Staten Island is a mix of bawdy comedy, heartfelt drama and uncertain emotion. At 136 minutes, the film runs long and is sometimes uneven, another Apatow trademark, but Davidson remains a compelling lead during the extended running time. The film shifts to the unlikely bond between Scott and Ray, also a firefighter. Ray lets Scott sleep at the station when Margie kicks them out of the house. There, he bonds with Ray's buddies, Papa (Buscemi), Savage (Jimmy Tatro), Lockwood (Domenick Lombardozzi) and Thompson (Mike Vecchione), in between working odd jobs for his keep. The guys reveal that they worked with Scott's father, and tell him stories about the man that are some of the first humanizing stories Scott has ever heard. Scott also bonds with Ray's kids and becomes a better friend to Kelsey.
The Scott character might have been kind of annoying, at least in the beginning, if Davidson was not so likeable. The real-life actor has dealt with the death of his father (named Scott), been ostracized by castmates on "SNL" and faced a very public battle with depression and a break-up with pop singer Ariana Grande. He seems like a genuinely decent guy, and much of his own personality appears to seep into his character here. Davidson keeps The King of Staten Island on track even when it desperately wants to ramble, and Burr and Tomei are also blue-collar believable here. Apatow's writing and Davidson's delivery pair well, and I appreciate that the film avoids the cynicism of many arrested-development stories. This is not Apatow's best work, but, as with all of his directorial efforts, it offers a personal story worth experiencing.
The 2.39:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image is as competent as you'd expect for a new release. Shot on 35mm film, The King of Staten Island has a fine layer of grain that remains fluid throughout the feature. Fine-object detail and texture are pleasing; from facial features to set dressings to costumes. Colors are properly saturated, skin tones appear accurate, and contrast is kept in check. I noticed some minor black crush in a couple of scenes but no other obvious flaws.
The disc offers a Dolby Atmos mix that I sampled as a core 7.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. This is largely a dialogue-driven film, and conversations are presented in perfect clarity. Ambient effects shine in several scenes, including the baseball game scene and during a fire call. The soundtrack selections are appropriately weighty and nicely integrated. English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles are included.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This two-disc set arrives in a standard case and includes the Blu-ray and a DVD copy. A Movies Anywhere digital copy is also included, and a slipcover wraps the case. The disc contains a ton of extras, some of which only appear in standard definition, perhaps to give the feature plenty of breathing room? On the disc you get Alternate Endings (Which Didn't Work) (3:50 total/HD); Deleted Scenes (15:34 total/HD); a Gag Reel (5:53/HD); Line-O-Rama (4:37/HD); The Kid from Staten Island (19:04/SD), a look at Davidson's life; Judd Apatow's Production Diaries (31:44/SD); You're Not My Dad: Working with Bill Burr (4:42/SD); Margie Knows Best: Working with Marisa Tomei (3:21/SD); Friends with Benefits: Working with Bel Powley (3:54/SD); Sibling Rivalry: Working with Maude Apatow (4:35/SD); Best Friends: Working with Ricky, Moises and Lou (3:56/SD); Papa: Working with Steve Buscemi (2:51/SD); Friends of Firefighters Stand-Up Benefit (6:19/SD); Scott Davidson Tribute (5:28/SD); a Trailer (2:27/SD); Who is Pete Davidson? (3:27/SD); The Firehouse (3:17/SD); Pete's Casting Recs (2:56/SD); Pete's "Poppy" (Grandpa) (1:54/SD); Video Calls (20:36 total/SD); and an Audio Commentary by Judd Apatow and Pete Davidson.
Those familiar with Judd Apatow films know they can ramble a bit and are often overlong, but, like his other projects, The King of Staten Island offers human drama, humor, and a compelling lead in Pete Davison. This semi-biographical story about Davidson sees him playing a Staten-Island stoner who must break free from his arrested development. The disc looks and sounds nice, and it includes a wealth of bonus content. Recommended.
William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.