(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)
Why I added it to my queue: Because this film received an unusually high amount of praise when it first came out earlier this year, a blackly funny coming-of-age tale based on a series of popular novels by C.D. Payne; and it's got a great pedigree as well, starring one of my favorite actors currently in Hollywood, Michael Cera, and directed by Miguel Arteta, creator of one of my favorite films of all time (2000's truly masterful Chuck & Buck).
The reality: Exactly what I was hoping it would be -- funny, smart, surprisingly dark, and did I mention funny? In fact, this movie proved more than ever a little theory I've had going for awhile now, that Michael Cera is rapidly turning into the 21st-century Bob Newhart, with this film allowing him to really stretch as an actor in a way that a lot of his previous roles haven't; because for those who don't know, the high-school protagonist Nick Twist that he plays here is not exactly a hero all the time, but rather a conniving pathological liar who sees nothing wrong with committing a series of surprisingly serious crimes in order to win the heart of his teenage crush, and who makes up a suave French alter-ego in his head as a way of justifying his sometimes ethically horrendous behavior. In the meanwhile, then, this story takes us from a California suburb to a mobile-home park for fundamentalist Christians, then all the way to a French-language boarding school on the other side of the state and a lot more, offering up all kinds of intellectual yet zany zingers that are sure to perpetually amuse all you well-read nerds out there. ("I'm going on a hike. I'd ask you to come along, but you haven't got any hiking boots, provisions, survey maps, or a compass." "I do all of my hiking free-form. Like John Muir, I enter the wilderness with nothing more than my journal and a child-like sense of wonder." BRILLIANT.) Surprisingly transgressive, this is like combining a Young Adult novel, a punk album and a Monty Python episode, and I have to confess that it turned out to be one of my more favorite movie experiences of the entire year. It comes highly recommended to those who like their humor fast, intelligent and dark-edged.
Strangest piece of trivia: The filmmakers actually had Cera wear colored contact lenses during all his scenes featuring his French alter-ego, the mustachioed smooth bastard Francois Dillinger.
Worth your time? Oh my, yes!