Young lads are lucky if they grow up with a guy like Zeke (Pete Davidson) in their lives. When a 12-year-old named Mo (Aiden Arthur) meets the lanky, older boyfriend of his sister Kate (Emily Arlook), he’s the sort of cool dude likely to impress any preteen. Zeke is the one who takes Mo on rollercoasters, gives him his first beer, gets him in to R-rated movies; the first time the kid sees a naked woman, he says in a voiceover, is when Zeke shows him one on his phone. Sure, the boy’s parents are that crazy about him, especially his dad(Jon Cryer). But Mo admires this guy who knows how to talk to women in bars and smoke cigarettes. Even when Kate breaks up with her beau, Zeke still let’s the youngster hang with him and his buddies in a strip mall parking lot. He’s the best!
And those same young lads are equally as lucky if, by the time they’ve grown up a bit and got a little wiser about the world, they’ve moved on from having a guy like Zeke in their lives. The 16-year-old Mo (Griffin Gluck) still spends all of his spare time hanging out with the now-23-year-old adult, although that term should be used as loosely as possible regarding this former mentor figure. Zeke’s now got a job at a home appliance store and a new girlfriend, Holly (Sydney Sweeney). But he basically does the same exact stuff he did when Mo first met him: shotgun beers, smoke pot, play videogames. Maturity? That’s for suckers. And because Mo is still trying to figure things out — like how to get this girl named Sophie (Oona Laurence) to go out with him, how to get some cash, how to be cool — he keeps turning to his friend for counsel. Which is a bad move, because Zeke’s an endless fountain of bad advice. He’s the worst!
It’s a coming-of-age movie, in other words, but one that relies as much on cracked charm of its in-house boorish role model as it does the pilgrim’s progress of its hero. And this is why it pays to cast Pete Davidson in a role that seems tailor-made for his talents. As anyone who’s seen him on Saturday Night Live can attest, he’s more of a personality than a utility player, the kind of guy that scores laughs largely because he’s put into a situation where a Davidson type seems bewildered or out of place. (His most memorable character is a dimwit named Chad who seems perpetually chill and/or stoned. It totally kills.) No one would accuse the comedian of simply playing himself here, but Zeke is totally in his wheelhouse. You believe this guy is a manchild with an anti-Midas touch and someone compelling enough to breeze through life in a stage of perpetual adolescence. He’s funny, and undeniably a card-carrying fuck-up. Even Zeke’s sheepish moments, like when he reluctantly agrees to hotbox with an old buddy in his car despite the fact that Mo isn’t a smoker, feel authentic.
His rapport with Gluck, who’s pleasant enough, also helps sell the relationship between the teen and his goofy father figure. Which is good, because writer-director Jason Orley isn’t giving them much to work with past the usual storytelling beats: kid takes bad advice, kid makes bad decisions, older guy’s like “the fuck did I do?” McNulty-style, kid realizes he’s gotta put away childish things and break up with his best bud. Big Time Adolescence isn’t a bad movie, just one you’ve seen many, many times before. The fact that Hulu is putting it out in theaters and pushed up its streaming date on a weekend that many folks are settling in for a long, hard endurance test of in-door living is a smart move. It’s the kind of film that works well if you don’t feel like getting off your couch. Zeke would definitely approve.