Restless Kids With Crushes Run in Worn Circles

    In last year’s critical and commercial hit, the indie-turned-mainstream “Juno,” Michael Cera warmed the hearts of filmgoers everywhere as an adorably pathetic high school boy forced to deal with the ramifications of impregnating his crush. In “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist,” Cera looks to reheat hearts in 2008, this time playing an adorably pathetic high school boy forced to deal with the ramifications of making out with a stranger and confronting his seductress of an ex-girlfriend.

    It’s nice to see that Cera is finally starting to show some range.

    “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” proves an easy target within its first few scenes: Aside from casting Cera as lead, the film otherwise shamelessly exploits the success of “Juno” and her massive cult following. But if we can get past conspicuous similarities, there are certainly unique elements to Nick and Norah’s quaint hipster romance. Though not nearly as coy, clever nor captivating as “Juno,” it gets by on a colorful set of adolescent dramas and eccentric characters, like a throwback to the “Brat Pack” romantic comedies of the ’80s.

    The premise — involving a midnight scavenger hunt to find Where’s Fluffy, the film’s loveable rock band — is at best arbitrary, but glued by the constant and lust-driven tension among a circle of awkward adolescents. Throughout the course of the film, Nick (Cera) finds himself constantly drawn to his utterly shallow but incredibly sexy ex-girlfriend Tris (Alexis Dziena), epitomizing every drooling boy’s fantasy; likewise, Norah (Kat Dennings) finds herself constantly at the sleeve of her on-and-off ex-boyfriend Tal (Judd Apatow-apostle Jay Baruchel) to quell her obvious dependency issues. While the sheer sexual magnetism reverberating between the guys and gals merits an occassional chuckle, like all romantic comedies, the eponymous, panting characters must move past uncontrollable urges and recognize the ultimate importance of a lasting love.

    Admittedly, the film tries a little too hard to boast musical credentials, unabashedly namedropping several obscure bands and even allowing folk-rocker Devendra Banhart a self-indulgent cameo, but the film’s celebration of the inseparability of music and love is wholeheartedly endearing, convincing audiences that the question “What kind of music do you listen to?” is actually pretty darn significant.

    Though “Nick and Norah” requires some stretching of the imagination — specifically with the notion of fate — its fresh twist on Romeo and Juliet lets us witness a couple of kids falling in love within mere hours of meeting, over a shared musical interest. It’s all very whimsical and charming, even if somewhat cheesy and unbelievable.

    The film is genuinely funny, mostly due to Cera’s predictable, aw-shucks demeanor, and Ari Graynor’s performance as the drunkenly disobedient Caroline. As far as stereotypical romantic comedies go, the film succeeds in entertaining — but expecting another “Juno” is hopeless.

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