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Au revoir, l'enfant terrible

Youth in Revolt (2010)

Chuy Chávez/Dimension Films

The big-screen-bound “Arrested Development” was in limbo because Michael Cera had declined until recently to reprise the role of George-Michael Bluth that he played in the cult TV series. It’s almost reprehensible, because every movie role Mr. Cera has had since the cancellation of the series has been a variation on that character.

Just as the hipster culture becomes increasingly passé, Mr. Cera’s appeal as an actor also diminishes. In “Youth in Revolt,” that George-Michael-esque character is Nick Twisp, a teenage outcast stuck in a trailer park with his mother (Jean Smart) and her string of loser boyfriends (Zach Galifianakis and Ray Liotta among them). Nick becomes smitten with newly arrived Sheeni (Portia Doubleday), who is merely tolerating his company to relieve her teenage ennui while daydreaming about escaping to a French-language boarding school with her boyfriend Trent (Jonathan B. Wright). Sheeni encourages Nick to “be bad,” so he invents a mustachioed, chain-smoking, French-accented alter ego named François to win her heart.

Jean-Paul Belmondo, François is not. While Mr. Cera could pull off Nick in his sleep, he fails to convince as François. Normally, one must go to a high school play to see a performance of this caliber. As if the idea of Mr. Cera as a smoldering daredevil isn’t absurd enough, director Miguel Arteta furnishes the film with fantasy sequences — such as one involving stop-motion miniature models — that are more contrived than inspired.


Opens on Jan. 8 in the United States and on Feb. 5 in Britain.

Directed by Miguel Arteta; written by Gustin Nash and adapted from the novel by C. D. Payne; director of photography, Chuy Chávez; production designer, Tony Fanning; produced by David Permut; released by Dimension Films. Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes. This film is rated R by M.P.A.A. and 15 by B.B.F.C.

WITH: Michael Cera (Nick Twisp and François), Portia Doubleday (Sheeni Saunders), Jean Smart (Estelle Twisp), Zach Galifianakis (Jerry), Steve Buscemi (George Twisp), Fred Willard (Mr. Ferguson), Ray Liotta (Lance Wescott), Justin Long (Paul Saunders), Mary Kay Place (Mrs. Saunders), M. Emmet Walsh (Mr. Saunders) and Jonathan Bradford Wright (Trent).


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