Friday, November 28, 2008

Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist

Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist seems to take place in some alternate, sanitized version of New York City where everyone is under twenty-five, attractive, and white (except for one or two non-threatening Asians), the Empire State Building is visible everywhere, and there's immediate parking available in front of every building. It's too cute by half, bleeding indie music and self-aware witty dialogue from its pores. But despite all this I found it immensely likable. It has to be approached with an extremely noncynical eye, but taken as a little character piece it is, while not as blisteringly laugh-out-loud funny as other comedies from this year like Tropic Thunder or Pineapple Express, an energetic and (dare I risk my masculinity by saying it) cute little flick that put me in a cheery mood.

How well you'll like the movie probably leans 95% on how well you like Michael Cera, who is up to old tricks doing another turn at the wheel of his trademark comedically awkward, well-meaning, low self-esteem "George Michael" type previously honed in Arrested Development, Superbad, and Juno. If that's gotten old for you, then you can probably skip the entire movie, if you continue to like it, as I do (George Michael was always my favorite part of Arrested Development), you'll probably like Nick & Norah. Kat Dennings is perfectly cute as his romantic interest which is good since some 75% of the movie is watching them fall for each other, but Michael Cera has to do the vast, vast majority of the comedic heavy lifting. Thankfully for me, his awkward schtick continues to crack me up.

I also love that the movie was actually shot in Manhattan. I hate when movies and TV shows set in New York are obviously shot in "New York" (aka Toronto or Los Angeles), and Nick & Norah doesn't hesitate to pimp out its Manhattan location shooting at splatter it all over the screen with scenes set on Broadway, near Times Square, down in the Village, and so on (and as previously mentioned a lot of shots with the Empire State in the background). There's even a scene set at Broadway & 11th Street, across from the Blockbuster Video, which I thought was tight because I walked through that corner nine out of ten days for like four years. An exceptionally shallow reason to like a movie, yes, but I'm a sucker for authentic New York location shooting.

As I mentioned, the "indieness" of the music playing over every frame of the movie is a little sledgehammer (although a lot of it isn't half bad) and some of the dialogue is a bit too forcedly quirky (though nothing to the degree of Juno). But it has a brisk comedic rhythm, likable characters with pleasant if very familiar character arcs, Michael Cera being awkward, and Manhattan. I give it a seal of approval with a mild slap on the wrist to tone down the quirk a hair.

3 Stars out of 5

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