Sunday, September 28, 2008

'Nick and Norah' do New York

**1/2 out of ****

Whoever said opposites attract clearly hasn't met Nick and Norah. After a summer of raunchy R-rated, laugh-out-loud comedies such as "Pineapple Express" and "Tropic Thunder," "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist" turns down the volume a bit with a romantic high school comedy.

Michael Cera ("Superbad," "Juno") stars as Nick. Heartbroken by his girlfriend, Tris (Alexis Dziena), Nick becomes a recluse, but his band members (Aaron Yoo and Rafi Gavron) hope to cheer him up by convincing him to play at their New York City gig.

One girl at the gig is Norah (Kat Dennings), a straight-laced student who has been dragged there by her drunken friend, Caroline (Ari Graynor). After one of Norah's classmates teases her about coming to the club without a date, she grabs the first guy she sees and begs him to pretend to be her boyfriend.

The guy happens to be Nick and the classmate turns out to be Tris. With the rest of the night ahead of them, Nick and Norah hopscotch around the Big Apple trying to find drunken Caroline and their favorite band Fluffy, which is playing at a secret venue. While looking for Fluffy, they find love along the way.

"Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist" is based on a book by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. First-time screenwriter Lorene Scafaria has a knack for dialogue that's sweet and touching, but misses the funny bone. Director Peter Sollett does a hip job that surpasses most of the recent glop in this field. He also has a great ear for independent music, although you wish at points some other genres were explored. Unfortunately, the film falls prey to predictability and sloppy transitions.

Cera and Dennings ("The House Bunny") have a fair amount of chemistry between them, but it seems forced or missing at times. Dennings pulls off a convincing performance as a timid spirit, while Cera stars as a dejected musician.

The supporting cast helps the movie move along, but sometimes a little too bluntly. Yoo stands out as Nick's best friend, but there is not much depth to his character. Graynor steals most of the laughs stumbling around New York City, though she seems out of place, as if she's in a different slapstick movie. The film has a few quirky charms, but mainly remixes the same old tunes.

As far as romantic comedies go, should "Nick and Norah" pop up on your movie playlist, you'll be in for an enjoyable time.

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