The latest comedian to try to make the jump from “Saturday Night Live” to the big screen is Pete Davidson, with his slightly-autobiographical, overly-long, kinda funny “The King of Staten Island”.
Except, of course, the film won’t actually appear on any big screens because of the pandemic. Instead, “The King of Staten Island” is available on demand in the comfort of your own home — not that you should bother. The film is well-acted, has some solid dark humor, and perhaps has a story somewhere at its core. But overall, “Staten Island” goes on too long and meanders too much.
Though I suppose the film might appeal more to people who can directly identify with Davidson’s inner turmoil.
Davidson plays Scott, a directionless stoner in his mid-20s who still lives at home with his mom on Staten Island, with no prospects and a pretty weak dream of becoming a tattoo artist. The one character trait he has with any real spark in the film is that his firefighter father died in the line of duty when Scott was a child, and he has yet to really make his peace with that.
So when his mom starts dating a new guy, who also happens to be a firefighter, Scott is forced to start taking some really serious looks at his life. This would be your typical “coming-of-age” story if the movie had some actual forward momentum.
Davidson is pretty great in the lead role, which is dedicated to his own firefighter father who died responding to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He isn’t playing his father, but you can see how “Scott” is crafted around Davidson’s own life. He’s a good performer, he’s got a good sense of humor and he easily carries the movie as the lead.
The problem is that “The King of Staten Island” doesn’t really have much of a story, at least not one worth its lengthy screen time.
“The King of Staten Island” is more than two hours long, and is basically just Scott meandering through life, putting in the least amount of effort possible at every opportunity. It’s only when other people take pity on him because of his dad that he begins to show the barest signs of movement in his life. The rest of the movie is just one character after another practically begging Scott to make something of his life, and then Scott rejecting them because he’s content with his self-loathing.
If the movie was about that self-loathing, maybe it would be a stronger film, but it really only touches upon Scott’s mental health issues as if they were character quirks. The movie feels like we’re supposed to want Scott to succeed and then never actually makes that happen.
“The King of Staten Island” could have used a stronger plot and a shorter runtime, and then maybe it would have been a movie worth watching. Otherwise, it’s a middling start to “SNL” alum Pete Davidson’s movie career.