Same Old Cera — Just Add Moustache

Michael Cera is a quirky kid who’s desperately in need of some love.

If you’ve been anywhere near a movie theater in the last three years, you’re well aware of it. Whether he’s seeking to impress a lifelong crush in “Superbad,” pining after some girl he knocked up in “Juno” or combing NYC for a drunk chick in “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist,” Cera always comes through with a cutesy confession.

Needless to say, his role in “Youth in Revolt” — based on the book series by C.D. Payne — is one of the same. Nick Twisp, a well-mannered, teenaged Sinatra aficionado living with trailer trash, longs to cash his V-card an awkward pause with a girlfriend of his very own. But when it becomes obvious that his occasional eye contact with the opposite sex isn’t doing the trick, his alter ego — the devilish and debonair Francois Dillinger — takes the reigns. Before we know it, Nick is on his way to winning over his hot new neighbor Sheeni Saunders (Portia Doubleday).

But before we’re even introduced to the cast, which boasts the not-so-indie Jean Smart, Ray Liotta and Fred Willard, we’re flooded with an animated title sequence and kitschy soundtrack. Deja vu, anyone?

What follows is nothing short of predictable — every Cera film goes from unrequited love to rite of passage in two hours — but the actor’s ability to underplay his underdog role with clumsy comedic timing and baby cheeks make it somewhat excusable.

The bigger problem, however, is that we’re voyeuristically watching the same character mumble to himself and put his hands in his pockets for the thousandth time — and the formula no longer feels fresh.

In fact, far more engaging than the coming-of-age story of a precocious recluse with no familial support are the well-developed characters that surround him. Sheeni, the object of Nick’s affection, is the ideal mix of beauty, intelligence and immaturity — a cultured trailer park oxymoron with posters of Jean-Paul Belmondo tacked to her wall. Her rebellious tendencies captivate far more than Cera’s tired Urban Outfitters pose, as she struggles to overcome her own parents’ expectations (or lack there of).

Justin Long gets his fair share of witty one-liners as Sheeni’s deadbeat older brother, who drugs their parents to make them more manageable during the holidays. And Steve Buscemi, Fred Willard and Zach Galifianakis deliver a few good knee-slappers, making “Youth” a charming if unintelligent date movie.

Sure, Cera once again plays the staple of our generation — the awkward virgin who, thanks to the Internet, is isolated, brainwashed and reaching out for a connection — but Twisp’s journey to the holiest of holes is surprisingly enjoyable if you remember to leave your brain at home.

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