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'Big Time Adolescence' review:  Sweet, touching movie makes perfect use of Pete Davidson

Griffin Gluck (left) and Pete Davidson in Hulu's

Griffin Gluck (left) and Pete Davidson in Hulu's "Big Time Adolescence."   Credit: Hulu

MOVIE "Big Time Adolescence"

WHEN|WHERE Streaming on Hulu

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Teenager Mo Harris (Griffin Gluck) becomes close friends with his sister's college dropout ex-boyfriend Zeke Presanti (Pete Davidson), who guides the straight-and-narrow youngster into a world of alcohol-fueled parties and drug dealing. 

Mo regards Zeke as the epitome of bad-boy cool and finds himself drawn to him as a role model, while the older man comes to regard the teen as his best friend. The movie depicts the consequences of this relationship with a tone that's more bittersweet than outrageously comic.

MY SAY Davidson occupies a strange place in the pop culture landscape. He's such a specific type that he's likely not that easy to cast in movies and even "Saturday Night Live" often seems to have little idea what to do with him. He garners as many headlines for his off-screen life as he has for anything in front of a camera.

"Big Time Adolesence" offers a template for how to best utilize the actor, as his Zeke is certainly a deadbeat and a negative influence on the teenage Mo, but played with an underpinning of earnestness that makes him compelling.

Zeke loves this kid and wants what's best for him, but simply has no idea what that is or how to offer it. He can't help but steer Mo down a negative path, encouraging him to sell drugs to his fellow high schoolers and to engage in other forms of bad behavior, but in his mind, he's doing it because he wants to be a role model and to show the kid the ropes.

It's smart and perceptive character work by writer-director Jason Orley, who makes his directorial debut with this movie that can be found on Hulu, and Davidson shows an innate understanding of this person that successfully complicates the typical way he might have been portrayed.

We all want to be a mentor, to help shape someone's life for what we imagine to be the better. That's true even for the type of person who can't keep a job, can't make a commitment and might watch his girlfriend leave him and then nonchalantly slurp up a bowl of cereal as if nothing has any real consequence.

The movie is worth seeking out amid the plethora of streaming options as you hunker down at home amid the coronavirus pandemic precisely because it manages to take a ribald comic premise and transform it into something touching and hopeful. 

It's not the funny and outrageous movie you might expect it to be. In a way it's smarter than that, taking the familiar coming-of-age dramedy template and turning into a subtle but affecting meditation on friendship, which is a powerful and meaningful force in our lives even when it stands against our best interests.

BOTTOM LINE This is a sweet and touching movie that makes perfect use of Pete Davidson and is far smarter than you might assume it to be. You've got lots of time at home these days, but it'd be worth a watch even if you didn't.

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