The King of Staten Island

Pete Davidson’s comedy style leaves little wiggle room as people tend to either love it or hate it. While SNL has always been his best lane, he has branched out into film in a variety of supporting roles. The King of Staten Island marks Davidson’s biggest role on the big screen and is also his most personal. Co-written with director Judd Apatow and comedian Dave Sirus, the film follows Scott, a mid-20s young adult who still lives with his mom, as he tries to get his life together after everyone around him seems to be moving forward. It’s a film that shows off a different side of Davidson, although perhaps a little too much. 


When he was a kid, Scott (Pete Davidson) lost his father in a firefighting accident, and since then he hasn’t been able to move beyond smoking weed with his friends or trying to give everyone tattoos to practice his mediocre art skills. It all comes to a tipping point when his mom (Marisa Tomei) starts dating Ray (Bill Burr) who happens to also be a firefighter. It’s just one screw up after another for Scott and soon enough those around him begin to get fed up with his antics. Now he must either change his attitude or learn to live without those around him.


It’s easy to spot the parallels between Scott and Davidson as it’s well known that his firefighter father died responding to the September 11 attacks in New York City. The story itself is based on what it would be like if he didn’t go into standup comedy according to director Judd Apatow. The film is a story about heroes and perception and how no one, hero or not, is defined by any single thing. Life’s not that black and white. Sure, Scott has little drive in him to do better, especially at the beginning, but he does have dreams of becoming a tattoo artist. It’s just that no one really gives him the chance to make that a reality, himself included as he tends to shoot himself in the foot a lot. At the same time, heroes aren’t these larger than life characters that people have to aspire and live up to. Sometimes they’re just dads doing what they think is best for their family. 


I’ll admit that I’m not the biggest fan of Pete Davidson’s comedy, and The King of Staten Island is filled with plenty of jokes that don’t quite land and some cringe-worthy antics that already feel dated. We’ve seen this stoner comedy before. And yet there are also some truly heartfelt moments that showcase Davidson that he’s more than just his regular standup routine. These small intimate moments of drama are where the film shines.


Judd Apatow has a habit of making his films longer than necessary like with This is 40 and Funny People and at two hours and 15 minutes, The King of Staten Island is no exception. It’s a long movie, and you feel every minute of it. The film spends too much time showing Scott as a screw up before he attempts to get his life together, and by the time it does enter that arc you’re already exhausted. 


In the end, The King of Staten Island is a fine film that has its best moments when it’s being personal. Unfortunately there aren’t enough of these moments during its lengthy running time to make it any more memorable than it is. I feel like Pete Davidson has an uphill battle with this one, and while he’s making progress, the film can sometimes be a slow and grueling journey.

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
Follow him @ Twitter
Friend him @ Facebook