John Waters has his Baltimore. Spike Lee knows his Brooklyn. In the cheery anarchy of SLC Punk, writer-director James Merendino good-heartedly tweaks the Salt Lake City of his youth and turns his experience as an outsider (he was a punk — and a Catholic in a Mormon state) into a pleasurable if meandering demonstration of what some kids in 1985 did to shock their elders with their oh-so-dangerous individuality. Stevo (She’s All That‘s Matthew Lillard), for one, goes full up yours with major blue hair, vowing not to follow his dad (Christopher McDonald) to Harvard Law School; his best friend, ”Heroin” Bob (Michael Goorjian) — who never touches drugs — wears a maximum jet-black Mohawk and trails after a drama-hungry poetess (Annabeth Gish).
Like a guy at a raucous party, scarfing munchies at the hors d’oeuvres table, Merendino freely samples current filmmaking styles. But he’s also got a friendly kick all his own, particularly when he has Stevo pull viewers along with direct-to-camera commentary. Lillard is so magnetic, so casually riveting an actor, that we’ll go with him anywhere, even to the skankiest club in skank-resistant Salt Lake City. B