Judd Apatow is probably considered one of the most well know directors in comedy over the last decade or two. Despite this I have to admit that I have never seen one of the films that he has directed. This is mostly because I have never been a big fan of R rated comedies as I have never found them to be particularly funny. Today I am looking at Judd Apatow’s most recent film The King of Staten Island which was originally meant for theaters, but ended up going straight to VOD due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Today the film is getting its physical release on Blu-Ray and DVD. I have never been a big fan of R rated comedies, but I was intrigued by The King of Staten Island as it seemed like an interesting combination of comedy and drama about a young man trying to get his life together after his father died when he was a young kid. The King of Staten Island is a solid story with some compelling moments about getting your life together that unfortunately takes a while to get going.
At a young age Pete’s dad died on the job as a firefighter. Losing his father at an early age affected Pete’s life dramatically where he has basically become a slacker that is more interested in doing drugs than making something out of his life. After his younger sister leaves home to go off to college Pete is left at home with his mother. Pete’s mother takes this as an opportunity to begin dating again. As this is her first serious relationship since his father died Pete doesn’t react well. It doesn’t help that this man is also a firefighter which brings up a lot of bad memories about his father’s death. This forces Pete to reassess his own life as he begins to process his father’s death and try to move on with his own life.
I didn’t know this before checking out the special features, but The King of Staten Island is actually the semi-autobiographical story about Pete Davidson’s (the star of the movie) real life. I say semi-autobiographical because elements of the movie are true while others are fictional. Pete’s father was a firefighter who died on 9/11 when Pete was quite young. Thus some of the characters are based on real people and some of his feelings about his father’s death were also based on real life. The story itself is completely fictional though as he and Judd Apatow described the story as what could have happened if Pete didn’t overcome the loss of his father and get his life together.
As Judd Apatow is mostly known for comedies I assumed that The King of Staten Island would mostly be a comedy. It definitely has comedy elements. As it is a R rated movie it features a lot of the humor that you would expect from this type of movie. Many of the jokes are based around drugs and sex. As I have never been a big fan of this type of humor I would say that I found the movie to be a little hit and miss in this area. I didn’t find a lot of the jokes to be particularly funny. There were a few funny moments though where I genuinely laughed.
Many people might expect it to be a comedy, but it actually features quite a few drama elements as well. The story is mostly about getting your life together and dealing with losing your father at an early age. In many ways I think the drama elements of the movie are better than the comedy. This was actually the part of the movie that intrigued me the most. The second half of the movie in particular is where I think the movie is at its best. This is the part of the movie where Pete starts to turn his life around. I honestly think the movie should have focused more on this element as it is its greatest strength.
The problem is that it takes some time to get to this point. The movie’s runtime is 136 minutes which seems a little long in my opinion. In particular I thought the beginning of the movie dragged on a little too long. Not until over half way through the movie does Pete start to try and turn his life around. This means quite a bit of the movie is just about him keep making mistakes in his life with no real improvement. This leads to the movie starting off kind of slow as it features a number of plot lines that don’t really go anywhere. The movie should have streamlined the early story. This runtime should have been cut out entirely or added to the end of the movie.
Generally I am not a big fan of special features as I usually only watch them when they either sound really interesting or are from a movie that I really enjoyed. Therefore I somewhat skimmed the special features for The King of Staten Island. I have to say that I was quite impressed by the number and length of the special features on the Blu-Ray though. The Blu-Ray features 21 different features which have a runtime close to two and a half hours. That doesn’t even include the full length commentary. Many of the special features are what you would typically expect mostly featuring behind the scenes looks at how the movie was made. Some of the special features also touch on Pete Davidson’s real story as well. I would say that some of the special features reuse the same footage, but I would guess any fan of the film will appreciate them. The special features included on the Blu-Ray are as follows:
- Alternate Endings (3:51) – Two different alternative endings that were created for the movie. The endings are quite a bit different than the actual ending. I honestly think the movie could have benefited from working some of the elements from these alternate endings into the movie.
- Deleted Scenes (15:34) – Ten scenes that were removed from the final film.
- Gag Reel (5:53) – Your typical gag reel.
- Line-O-Rama (4:37) – A rundown of different takes where the actors ad-libbed lines for the movie.
- The Kid From Staten Island (19:04) – A look at the true story behind Pete Davidson and a general overview of how the movie was made.
- Judd Apatow’s Production Diaries (31:44) – During production Judd Apatow shot a set of videos talking about the creation of the movie and what happened on set during the day.
- You’re Not My Dad: Working with Bill Burr (4:42) – A feature about the creation of Ray, Bill Burr’s character, as well as what it was like working with Bill Burr.
- Margie Knows Best: Working with Marisa Tomei (3:21) – A look at working with Marisa Tomei and the creation of her character. It also discusses the comparisons between the character from the movie and Pete Davidson’s real mother.
- Friends with Benefits: Working with Bel Powley (3:54) – A feature about Bel Powley and her character.
- Sibling Rivalry: Working with Maude Apatow (4:35) – A feature about the creation of the character and comparisons to Pete Davidson’s real life sister. Also discusses Judd Apatow and crew working with his daughter on the movie.
- Best Friends: Working With Ricky, Moises, and Lou (3:56) – Talks about the creation of Pete’s friends in the movie.
- Papa: Working with Steve Buscemi (2:51) – A feature about working with Steve Buscemi, the creation of his character, and how Steve Buscemi used his prior experience as a firefighter on the film.
- Friends of Firefighters Stand-Up Benefit (6:19) – During the filming of the movie a number of the actors and cast held a standup comedy benefit for firefighters. This feature is a recap of that event.
- Scott Davidson Tribute (5:28) – A feature about Pete Davidson’s real father and how he died as a firefighter in 9/11.
- Official Trailer (2:27)
- Who is Pete Davidson? (3:27) – A feature about Pete Davidson’s real life and career.
- The Firehouse (3:17) – This feature is about shooting the scenes at the firehouse.
- Pete’s Casting Recs (2:56) – A feature about how Pete got his real life friends involved in creating the movie.
- Pete’s “Poppy” (Grandpa) (1:51) – Pete’s real life grandfather made a brief cameo in the movie which is shown in this special feature.
- Video Calls (20:45) – A set of video conference calls shot mostly between Judd Apatow and Pete Davidson during the pandemic discussing the status of the movie and other topics.
- Feature Commentary with Judd Apatow and Pete Davidson
Ultimately I found The King of Staten Island to be a solid movie that has some flaws. I thought the acting was quite good. Pete Davidson is good in the title role which is not all that surprising as the story is somewhat based on his own life. The supporting cast is also quite good. When The King of Staten Island is on I thought it was an enjoyable movie. The second half of the movie is pretty good as Pete starts to make improvements in his life as he starts to deal with losing his father at an early age. The problem is that you have to go through some slow points in order to get to that point. The comedy can be pretty hit and miss. The movie starts off kind of slow as there are some plot lines that don’t really add anything to the overall story.
My recommendation is pretty simple. If the premise doesn’t really interest you or you are looking for a straight up comedy like most of Judd Apatow’s movies you will probably be a little disappointed. If you are willing to sit through the somewhat slow beginning though The King of Staten Island is an enjoyable enough movie that is worth watching.
We would like to thank Universal Studios for the review copies of The King of Staten Island used for this review. Other than receiving the review copies we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation. Receiving the review copies had no impact on the content of this review or their final score.