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Posted: October 18, 2008 5:00 a.m.

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‘Nick & Norah’s’ breaks mold of recent teen films

 Unlike some of the more recent additions to the teen-ploitation genre, "Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist" actually has something worthwhile to offer to filmgoers. While there are a few obligatory gross-out moments, the film for the most part is sweetly ironic.

Set in a make-believe New York City where parking is always available and it’s no big thing to strand a teenage girl by the side of the road in the middle of the night, the film takes place within the timeframe of a single night in the big city.

New Jersey teenage hipsters Nick (Michael Cera, "Superbad") and Norah (Kat Dennings, "The 40-Year Old Virgin") are predictably somewhat smarter and more ironic than their peers. Norah has to self-consciously deal with being the daughter of a big time music executive in the image-conscious world of Englewood while Nick is still trying to get over a bad breakup with his "Mean Girls" girlfriend Tris, who doesn’t appreciate his awesome taste in mix tapes.

But Norah does and has been collecting all of the mix tapes that Tris has thoughtlessly thrown out, seeing in Nick her musical soul-mate. When the two finally meet at a concert in the city where Nick’s band — The Jerk Offs — is performing, it’s kind-of-sorta-like-love-at-first-sight. The two soon embark on quest around New York to find the location of a secret concert of their favorite indie band, Where’s Fluffy.

Assisted on their quest by Nick’s gay band mates, Thom (Aaron Yoo, "Disturbia") and Dev (Rafi Gavron, "Breaking and Entering") and Norah’s inebriated best friend Caroline (Ari Graynor), the twosome boomerang throughout the night between feelings of affection, animosity and ultimately strong liking.

Injecting themselves periodically into the whole morass are Tris (Alexis Dziena), a ridiculously insecure and cocky high school it-girl, and Norah’s ex-boyfriend Tal (Jay Baruchel, "Knocked Up"), a wannabe Zionist rock star who wants to use Norah’s insider connections to jumpstart his career.

Fans of Judd Apatow’s films will see a lot of familiar faces in "Nick & Norah." But while Aptaow films typically delight in the humor of the perennially pubescent American male and plenty of cringe-inducing sex scenes, this film’s director Pete Sollett relies instead on a good script and the chemistry between Cera and Dennings to carry the movie.

Cera turns in a strong performance as the self-effacing Nick. After first gaining national kudos for his three-season run as George Michael on Fox’s "Arrested Development," Cera is making a name for himself as a stuttering indie heartthrob with the gleamings of a true comedic genius in the making. Dennings also does a fine job as Norah, a girl that while saddled with all of the typical teenage girl insecurities, is smart enough to go easy on herself by not comparing herself to her classmates too much.

Not hindered by an overly complicated plot, "Nick & Norah" takes its viewers on a pleasant journey of teenage self-awakening that while predictable is still well worth a watch.

Grade: B+

 

"Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist" is rated ‘PG-13’ for mature thematic material including teen drinking, sexuality, language and crude behavior and has a running time of 1 hour and 30 minutes.

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