Youth is revolting

Michael Cera’s nervous schtick ready for retirement

Since his earliest small-screen appearances as the endearingly awkward George Michael Bluth in Arrested Development Brampton-born actor Michael Cera has earned plenty of mileage from soft-spoken characters cut from the same cloth. However while his turns in Superbad Juno and the online comedy Clark and Michael managed to pluck laughs and charm from this archetype it’s unfortunately not nearly enough to salvage Youth in Revolt an absolute car wreck that finds Cera sputtering to a halt.

Adapting author C.D. Payne’s 1993 novel Youth in Revolt: The Journals of Nick Twisp the film centres on Cera’s tongue-tied protagonist of the same name. Living his teenage years unhappily unpopular and unlucky in love Twisp’s life flips when he meets and falls head over sneakers for Sheeni Saunders (newcomer Portia Doubleday). As the 16-year-old sees it his only chance at landing the exotic vixen of the trailer park is to transform himself into her concept of the perfect man a rebellious mustachioed smoker in white pants and loafers named Francois Dillinger.

From this point forward we see both Twisp and Dillinger on screen at the same time in an ongoing duel of dual personalities that brings to mind Family Matters’ Steve Urkel and his alter ego Stephan Urkelle. Despite the additional casting of no less than Steve Buscemi Zach Galifianakis Fred Willard Justin Long Jean Smart and Ray Liotta the rest of the characters are even more stereotypical (trashy mom crooked cop stoner philosopher brother etc.) making this multi-vehicle pile-up all the more painful.

Perhaps a clever storyline could have saved the proceedings but the twists and turns of this teen comedy are as predictable as the milquetoast indie-rock soundtrack — though at least we get Jacques Dutronc’s “Les Cactus” and an Ashlee Simpson piss-take. In turn director Miguel Arteta ( Chuck and Buck Freaks and Geeks Six Feet Under and The Office ) pulls no punches shamelessly amalgamating every element of the most popular quote unquote indie films of the last few years. Crossing off this cringe-worthy checklist we’ve got quirkily articulate Little Miss Sunshine -style dialogue references to Fellini Godard and Gainsbourg and the requisite animated interludes (surprisingly clunky low-budget and unfunny in this case).

Youth in Revolt feels far too forced sewn together with the seams showing and seemingly written by someone the same age as Nick Twisp. In the end this R-rated romp is really just American Pie dressed up in American Apparel.