Youth in Revolt Review

Nerdy Michael Cera tries to bring out his bad side to win the girl, in Youth in Revolt, released on DVD by Momentum.

Sixteen-year-old Nick Twisp (Michael Cera) lives with his mother Estelle (Jean Smart) and her boyfriend Jerry (Zach Galifianakis). His virginity has begun to preoccupy him but there are no girls likely to help him resolve this problem. When a dodgy deal of Jerry’s goes wrong, the family goes on vacation to a trailer park. There Nick meets Sheeni Saunders (Portia Doubleday) who is beautiful and smart, and it’s love at first sight…for Nick. Sheeni already has a boyfriend. So how can Nick win Sheeni? Should he be not so much of a nice guy?

Based on a novel by C.D. Payne, Youth in Revolt is a teen comedy that’s not as edgy or quirky as it thinks it is. While Michael Cera has played the lovable nerd several times before, here he gets to stretch a little: as his bad-boy alter ego François Dillinger (complete with pencil moustache and permanent cigarette). He also appears in drag in another guise, “Carlotta”. Portia Doubleday plays Sheeni adeptly, though I’m not convinced she’s much more than a male fantasy figure. She’s beautiful and smart, likes all things French (A bout de souffle is her favourite film) and knows enough about world cinema to correct Nick when he gets the director of Tokyo Story wrong. There’s a strong supporting cast, including Fred Willard as a neighbour who harbours illegal immigrants in his basement, Steve Buscemi as Nick’s father (complete with bikini-clad girlfriend), M. Emmett Walsh and Mary Kay Place as Sheeni’s Bible-bashing parents, and Ray Liotta as (guess what?) a cop.

Director Miguel Arteta tricks the story out with quirky touches, such as a couple of animated sequences, and makes it a little edgier than normal (stronger sexual references and a few “fucks” raising the certificate) but ultimately it’s boy wants girl, and bedding her is boy’s only goal. Oh, and once again good guys finish last. It’s mildly amusing, but no more than that.


Momentum’s DVD release of Youth in Revolt is a dual-layered disc encoded for Region 2 only. It begins with trailers for The Spy Next Door, Dear John, The Crazies and a commercial for Galaxy Minstrels. This is a review of the DVD: there is also a Blu-ray release.

The DVD transfer is in a ratio of 1.78:1 and anamorphically enhanced. Unfortunately it’s not insignificantly windowboxed – see the screengrab above. Worse still, it’s a NTSC-to-PAL systems conversion, which is something I thought I’d never see again for a commercial release like this. The running time (same as that of the cinema release, meaning no PAL speed-up) is one giveaway, as is the dully-coloured, soft transfer and the ghosting that happens with every movement. I wish UK distributors would follow Eureka’s lead (not just in their Masters of Cinema releases) of releasing a NTSC disc if the alternative would be a systems conversion like this. Youth in Revolt was not shot on film but made digitally using the Red One camera (at 4K resolution). As a PAL DVD could easily be downconverted from a HD master, there really is no excuse for the present standards conversion.

The soundtrack is in Dolby Digital 5.1, though it’s not the most adventurous mix out there: mostly front and centre with the surrounds used for music and occasional ambience. English subtitles for the hard-of-hearing are available.

Although the commentary is billed as being from the director, he’s actually joined by Michael Cera. The two men are clearly enjoying each other’s company, but the resulting chat is pleasant but inconsequential, rather like the movie it supports, and not especially informative either.

The extras continue with some deleted scenes (10:51). As so often is the case, you can see why they were cut, as they don’t in the main add much that isn’t in the final version – a good example of this being an elaborate animated sequence dealing with a character’s death (covered by voiceover in the finished film). Also on the disc are cast auditions (9:15), some deleted and extended animation sequences (3:23) and the theatrical trailer (1:54)


Updated: Jul 26, 2010

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