Big Time Adolescence - Still 1
Credit: Sundance Institute

Everyone who ever went to high school remembers that guy: the one who always knew where the party was, even if he couldn’t find homeroom on a map. The one who was kind of a burnout and kind of cool and then he graduated and just… stuck around.

He’s the sophomore from shop class who got you high for the first time; he’s Matthew McConaughey’s Wooderson in Dazed and Confused; and now he’s Zeke (Pete Davidson) in Big Time Adolescence, a sweetly crass comedy that walks the line between John Hughes and Jackass and more often than not, deliberately fails its sobriety test.

American Vandal’s Griffin Gluck is Mo: a smart, handsome kid who tagged along with Davidson’s six-years-older Zeke one day back when Zeke was briefly his older sister’s boyfriend, and never really stopped. Now he’s 16, and Zeke, who would be nebulously post-grad if he’d ever actually gone to college, is officially his best friend.

Mostly they hang out at Zeke’s crash-pad clubhouse with his other millennial-hobo friends (which include actor-musician Colson Baker, a.k.a. Machine Gun Kelly), getting high and playing video games and generally just burning through the hours Mo isn’t in school and Zeke’s not at the minimum-wage job he barely deigns showing up for.

It’s not a mentorship that Mo’s family, including his advertising-executive dad (a great Jon Cryer) exactly approves of, and they’re right to be worried. Zeke’s intentions are good(-ish), but his advice is terrible: sell drugs at school parties to make money, because what could go wrong! Be all over the girl you really like until she starts to like you back, then ignore her! Let my stoned friend tattoo you permanently in my filthy living room, you’ll never regret it!

Writer-director Jason Orley’s debut falls snugly into a long line of cinematic teen depravity, from Fast Times at Ridgemont High to Superbad. But there’s some real heart, and heartbreak, in his story; SNL star Davidson — leaning hard on the public persona we’ve come to know him for — seems literally made for the role, all jokey id and half-mast eyelids. And Gluck, beneath his Tiger Beat looks, has a sort of tender, watchful sensitivity.

Aside from Cryer’s character, emotional intelligence is mostly relegated to the movie’s young women, including Oona Lawrence (Bad Moms) as the object of Mo’s affection, Emily Arlook (The Good Place) as his older sister, and Sydney Sweeney (The Handmaid’s Tale) as Zeke’s long-suffering girlfriend. They’re all well aware of how badly the guys they care about have gone wrong — or never really begun to go right — even if the clarity they offer often comes too late.

Mo and Zeke are ultimately left to make their own mistakes — which they do, spectacularly. And if Big Time isn’t exactly a PSA for good adulting, it’s still an endearingly messy portrait of boyhood and manhood and all the lessons in between. B

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