Hulu takes a stab at stealing some of Netflix’s thunder in the teen “coming of age” genre with “Big Time Adolescence.”
It’s a raunchy, drug-and-profanity fueled “Superbad” meets “Meatballs” of a kid who clings to his older sister’s ex-boyfriend long past the point of reason, the guy who gives the boy his first beer, his first trip to a bar, his first (kind of) girlfriend, first sex and first “hot box.”
And as a sidebar, it’s also about the clued-in-but-still-permissive parents that let all this go on. Remember Jon Cryer in “Two and a Half Men?” This is his character there ceding all control over his kid’s life to a Charlie Sheen-ish stoner/slacker/loser who cheated on his daughter when they were dating.
Pete Davidson of “Saturday Night Live” has the Bill Murray/”Meatballs” role here, an occasionally sweet, often wrong and far-less-benign “big brother” figure to young Monroe (Griffin Gluck).
Zeke used to date Kate (Emily Arlook). The older boy always included the younger one in their boardwalk arcade visits, movie dates. He took an interest. Here it is, seven years later, Kate has gone to college and moved on. But “Mo” still sticks to Zeke like a fanboy and bad-influence Zeke eats it up.
As the opening scene is the hammer being dropped on young Monroe, and his voice-over narration skirts the blame for the consequences of his Big Mistake with “not entirely my fault,” “Big Time Adolescence” is going to be about the slippery slope of hanging with “a man” who “made ME feel like a man,” only in the most adolescent sense.
Zeke is scattered, unrealistic, filled with “I could be an actor” talk or “I’m gonna be a TALK show host,” never doing a damned thing to make those delusions happen.
He picks up Mo in the same battered Volvo wagon he used to pick up sister Kate in, and out they go — to the bars, hanging out with Zeke’s fellow “Joe Rogan Show” bros.
Mo barely bothers to befriend anybody his own age, and the one kid who takes an interest (Thomas Barbusca) is the “Superbad” peer — the one who uses Mo to use Zeke to score liquor for a “Pimps & Ho’s rager” at a high school senior’s house.
The kids there won’t realize Zeke watered down the booze he bought with their money. And oh, by the way kid, take some of my weed with you to sell.
The kid’s dad is Mr. “All it takes is 10 seconds of stupid to ruin your whole life,” but Mo barely puts up a fight. “I feel like it’s going to become this whole thing.” He can see the future even if he is seemingly helpless at avoiding it.
Mo likes being “the Legend” who shows up with the goodies for his classmates. He gets the courage to flirt with the sassy “real” Sophie (Oona Lawrence of “The Beguiled”).
But we know how this is going to play out — the illusion of infallibility, the delusions of popularity, the blunders.
The female roles here are, to a one, barely sketched in. Gluck, from TV’s “Lock & Key,” registers — but only just. He’s playing a character that seems underdeveloped, like most of the others. Some of Mo’s actions seem abrupt and out of character, until we remember how little his “character” is fleshed out.
The actor-turned-writer-director Jason Orley cast Gluck, makes him a baseball player/baseball fanatic (he’s about 85 pounds, soaking wet). But the kid is so in Zeke’s thrall that he lets the never-amounted-to-anything Zeke give him baseball advice, in addition to love life pointers. And yeah, he talks him into selling drugs to teenagers.
It’s Davidson’s show, and he gives Zeke the attention span of a salmon, the morals of a jackrabbit and the sex appeal of the “cool guy” who most certainly wasn’t that cool in school. He needs younger acolytes to sell that myth. Meeting Zeke’s onetime guru, the Zeke back when Zeke was Mo’s age, could be sad or “Van Wilder” funny. It’s neither here.
Cryer’s years of practice playing the well-meaning but “What can you do?” ineffectual dad on TV mean more to his seemingly wise-to-Zeke’s-ways character than the screenplay. Why does Reuben allow this to go on? Cryer has the film’s one touching scene, an adult chat with Zeke that has pathos, at attempt at getting across what “parenting” is and…not enough parenting.
Orley’s screenplay borrows from several sources and is never quite wrestled into the same shape as the legions of better movies on this boy-comes-of-age theme that preceded it.
But Davidson, in a bid to escape “SNL” just as Bill Murray did shortly after “Meatballs,” gives this guy every bit of charisma and kid-luring bravado that he can summon up. Davidson may know “Big Time” is strictly small time. But he never lets on that he does, never lets up and never lets us notice how thin the entertainment surrounding him is.
MPAA Rating: R for drug content, alcohol use, pervasive language, and sexual references – all involving teens
Cast: Griffin Gluck, Emily Arlook, Julia Murney, Jon Cryer and Pete Davidson
Credits: Written and directed by Jason Orley. A Hulu Original.
Running time: 1:31