Review: 'The King of Staten Island' is a complete waste of time and money

by James Cronin | 7/3/20 2:00am

“The King of Staten Island” is not a good movie. There. I’d like to get that out of the way. Unlike the 136 minutes stolen from me watching this snooze fest, it will only take me a second to get to the point of this review: “The King of Staten Island” is incredibly boring, self-indulgent and not worth your time or money.

“TKOSI” is directed by Judd Apatow and stars Pete Davidson, Bill Burr and Marisa Tomei. Its plot centers around 24-year-old Scott Carlin (Davidson), a man-child who smokes weed and hangs out with his ne’er-do-well friends to cope with the impact of his firefighting father’s death 17 years earlier. Scott’s life is shaken up slightly when his mom (Tomei) starts dating someone new (Burr) and … yada yada yada … some stuff happens that causes him to examine his life … but only slightly. 

Shockingly little actually happens in this movie. We see about a month or so into the life of Davidson’s character (who I’m just going to refer to as Davidson from now on because there’s basically no difference), and during that time, he wisens up a bit and makes a small breakthrough with his mental health. 

The pacing in this movie is awful. It takes 50 minutes for the first interesting occasion to occur  — Burr dating Davidson’s mom — and 30 minutes to the end for the only mildly compelling moment to happen — Davidson interning at a firehouse. Everything in-between is almost pure fluff. I know it’s basically classic Apatow at this point to stretch a movie as far as humanly possible — “Trainwreck,” “This is 40” and “Funny People” were all laboriously long — but more is not always better, and generally not with comedies. I might have liked this film if it was 90 or 100 minutes long, but because it was so confident that it was good enough to be as long as it is, I resent it all the more. 

I’m hesitant to even call “TKOSI” a comedy. It’s more of a dramedy, but neither genre is represented to any meaningful degree. The dramatic aspects are unrealized and shallow, and the funny bits that actually hit home are few and far between. I probably chuckled three times throughout the whole movie — most of which can be attributed to the zany side characters — and I never once bought into the more somber parts.

When I say this movie is self-indulgent, I’m speaking in part about the run-time, but also about the whole premise. This movie is at its core a character study of Pete Davidson if he focused on tattoo artistry instead of comedy, and Davidson is simply not an interesting enough character worth studying. Exploring mental illness and the effects of losing a father as a child are interesting concepts, but “TKOSI” never really dips more than a toe into either of these themes, deciding instead to focus the spotlight on Davidson’s uniquely boring public persona that we’ve already seen a thousand times on SNL and in his standup. This may have been a love letter to his late father, or a romp through an alternative universe where he was never thrust into the spotlight, but either way, it did not do enough to make me care. 

The movie is also self-indulgent because, in the rush to concentrate purely on Davidson’s character, it neglects to focus on many story elements that showed much more promise. For instance, at one point, Davidson is forced to walk Burr’s kids to school. I thought this part was great and the interaction between him and the children was wonderful and had a lot of potential, but he only does it about two times before the movie decides to forget about it completely. 

Perhaps the biggest sin has to do with the titular locale of Staten Island. It went completely wasted, best exemplified by the fact that Burr, with his inescapable trademark Boston accent, played the main supporting character, a Bostonian. After watching this movie, I feel no closer to understanding Staten Island as a place in the slightest, and if it weren’t for a quick line of dialogue about how it’s due for gentrification like Brooklyn, and a short scene that takes place on the ferry, I would literally have no idea that the movie took place there if it weren’t for the title.

As for technical merits, there’s not much to be said. Nothing about the directing style or cinematography is that special. The performances were alright. Burr was admittedly fun to watch, but it was just more of his same angry, working-class Boston dad type-cast. Steve Buscemi has a small role in the movie as the chief of a fire department and he’s great, but his character is focused on a tantalizingly small amount, which just annoyed me.

The final reason I’m so mad at this movie is because I paid 20 bucks to rent it at home. There would have been nothing wrong with this if it was a decent movie, but I cannot in my right mind suggest to anyone that this movie is worth that price. If it was released in theaters, I would tell you it definitely isn’t worth the ticket price. If it was released on-demand for four dollars, I would still probably tell you it’s not worth it. If it was available for streaming on Netflix, or you just happened to come upon it on cable while channel surfing, then I’d maybe be able to suggest this movie for you but honestly, even then, I’d tell you to try finding something else first. This movie is a January release at best and calling it even that might be generous.

I don’t like giving bad reviews, and I rarely do. The only time I get angry at a movie is when I allow myself to truly believe it’ll be good, only to find out that it isn’t. That was the case with this movie. I allow good reviews to get my hopes up, and I was completely and utterly betrayed. Davidson and Apatow had no right stealing nearly two and a half hours from my life under the incredibly false pretenses that they had created something worth watching. They did not.

“The King of Staten Island” is too long, does nothing and is completely forgettable. Please do not waste your money watching it.