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Review: Big Time Adolescence Is Only Fun Until It Realizes It Has to Grow Up

The fallout of the main characters’ actions feels perfunctory and tossed-off in the rush to an ending.

Big Time Adolescence
Photo: Neon

Twentysomething college dropout Zeke (Pete Davidson) is a bad influence on Mo (Griffin Gluck), the teenage younger brother of the girl who dumped him years ago. A dubious friend and mentor, Zeke not only gives Mo horrendous advice about girls, but introduces the kid to drugs and alcohol. He even gets Mo to sell drugs to other teens at high school parties. Under Zeke’s tutelage, Mo becomes the perennially shifty “guy with the bag,” and it catches up with him in the flash-forward scene that opens writer-director Jason Orley’s Big Time Adolescence, during which cops escort Mo out of one of his classrooms.

If Orley is visibly more interested in the stoner hangouts than the actual consequences of Zeke’s influence, they’re at least fun hangouts. Gluck has an easy chemistry with Davidson, whose squawky, fast-talking performance overflows with endearing scumbag charisma. The two are a natural fit for Orley’s sharp comedic sensibilities, which tend to include killer one-liners and economically shot compositions in service of quick visual gags. When Mo’s mother hands him a container of spaghetti to take on the road, the film quickly cuts to him holding the steering wheel while Zeke wolfs down the pasta with a fork in the driver’s seat, blathering with his mouth full about the importance of jerking off before going anywhere. In another scene, Mo’s extremely stoned face occupies the center of the frame, surrounded by his scolding parents to either side of him until he tries to insist, glassy-eyed, that nothing is wrong.

Zeke’s idea of advice is that life is “scribbles and dicks and violence, all in a void,” but the film is complicated by its unwillingness to totally demonize him. He genuinely cares about Mo, but the problem, the film suggests, is that caring isn’t always enough when the relationship itself is toxic. That said, Big Time Adolescence is at its weakest when it has to do drama, since the fallout of Mo and Zeke’s actions feels perfunctory and tossed-off in the rush to an ending, a hasty come-down after the proverbial party. Until then, much of that conflict is voiced through the handful of thinly characterized women in the film, who seem to exist largely to wag their fingers at knuckleheaded dudes-being-bros. Big Time Adolescence is fun, but like its characters, it’s only fun until it realizes it has to grow up.

Cast: Griffin Gluck, Pete Davidson, Emily Arlook, Colson Baker, Sydney Sweeney, Jon Cryer Director: Jason Orley Screenwriter: Jason Orley Distributor: Neon, Hulu Running Time: 90 min

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