Music of the Night
Although it should have been a breezy cinematic jaunt, Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist is surprisingly muddled, its ultimate message hampered by the film's own indecisiveness.
Juno alumni Michael Cera plays Nick, a budding musician who still hasn't gotten over his ex Tris (Alexis Dziena). Kat Dennings (Charlie Bartlett) portrays Norah, a snarky high-schooler who's usually stuck following around her promiscuous friend Caroline (Ari Graynor). One night, Norah attends a club where Nick's band is playing, and to one-up the snooty Tris, she ropes the lovelorn schlub into being her boyfriend for a few minutes. As it turns out, this reignites Tris's interest in Nick -- much to the chagrin of Norah, who's developed something of a crush on him after listening to a bunch of his CD mixes. Nick's own bandmates vastly prefer Norah, so while they cart the plastered Caroline home, they send the pair into the Big Apple to find out where the elusive band "Where's Fluffy" is playing. As the night unfolds, so do Nick and Norah's feelings for one another, forcing Nick to choose between pining for Tris and giving the new girl in his life an honest shot.
Nick & Norah is in the spirit of Adventures in Babysitting, Into the Night, and all those other movies depicting one eventful night in the lives of their characters. But Nick & Norah never provides a good enough reason for why viewers should be interested in them in the first place. The film's story boils down to hopping from one random event to another so quickly and so often that it's hard to take interest in anything going on. Such scenes feel like thinly-veiled attempts to pad out the running time, bestowing the film with a sluggish pace which makes it feel as endless as the titular soundtrack.
Director Peter Sollett (who made the vastly under-appreciated Raising Victor Vargas) fails to settle on what tone the plot of Nick & Nora should adopt. The film begins innocently enough, simply as your average teen romp, but over the course of the scattershot story, Sollett gradually starts to move things into Before Sunrise territory. He tries to put a profound twist on the characters' actions, when no such opportunities really present themselves.
Despite Nick & Norah's "hip" sheen, it's no different from your average mainstream romance. Sollett finds himself trapped by a formula that demands the lead characters fall for each other, whether their relationship evolves naturally or not. In fact, most of Nick & Norah seems fairly forced, not to mention a bit on the phony side. Maybe I'm too cynical for my own good, but I don't think liking a couple of the same bands is sufficient criteria for a full-blown romance. Plus, I'd only be half-right if I said the kids at the center of this odyssey were charming enough to give the so-so material a good kick in the pants. Although he's stuck in the same sort of role he played in Superbad and Juno, Cera has the awkward youngster act down pat and gives a decent enough performance. But as lovely as she is, Dennings never sold me on Norah's sarcastic personality.
Overall, Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist comes across as harmless fun with a bit more substance for teen viewers than the latest gross-out farce. The story's full potential may not have been tapped, but at least Nick & Norah gives it the old college try.
MY RATING: ** (out of ****)
(Released by Columbia Pictures and rated "PG-13" for thematic material including teen drinking, sexuality, language and crude behavior.)