Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist

(2008) ** 1/2 Pg-13
90 min. Sony Pictures Releasing. Director: Pete Sollett. Cast: Michael Cera, Kat Dennings, Ari Graynor, Rafi Gavron, Alexis Dziena.

/content/films/3232/2.jpgJuno meets After Hours in the slacker romance Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, a shaggy dog of a movie that will appeal big-time to its young target audience. The older crowd may not be so sold on the film’s persistent stabs at gross-out humor (emblematized by a piece of gum that travels wantonly, and unbelievably, through the film), but there’s an essential sweetness to this story of two suburban New Jersey teens figuring out that they belong together over the course of a wayward evening in The City That Never Sleeps.

The story derives from a 2006 young adult novel by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn. Michael Cera (Juno) brings his patented underdog routine to Nick, a junior musician still smarting from a breakup. Kat Dennings (The House Bunny) plays the likeably tart-tongued Norah, an inexplicable friend to Nick’s insecurely bitchy ex Tris (Alexis Dziena). As their social circle traipses around Manhattan in search of a semi-secret underground concert, complications draw Nick and Norah together, apart, and together again in bickering-lover fashion.

When the characters board the dumpy van of Nick's bandmates The Jerk Offs (Aaron Yoo of Disturbia and Rafi Gavron of Rome) or Nick's own dirty yellow Yugo, the plot threatens to get into gear, but it never quite does, preferring narratively to drive around the proverbial block. Every rom com needs its structural contrivances to delay the climax, but this one seems to move through them rather dutifully: the drama of unresolved relationships for each lead, a detour to recover Norah's drunken friend Caroline (Ari Graynor), and the inevitable discovery of the concert.

The best moments are, of course, the ones the film doesn't seem to be laboring to create, like the details of Nick's patheticalness (ringtone: "Boys Don't Cry," title of latest mix CD: "Road to Closure Vol. 12"). Somewhere between screenwriter Lorene Scafaria and director Peter Sollett (the sublime indie Raising Victor Vargas), the romantic union between Nick and Nora finds a perfect visual complement (I won't say what, but it plays out in Electric Lady Studios).

Given the appealingly quirky actors, it's not an unpleasant ride. As Norah's sort-of boyfriend Tal, Jay Baruchel (Knocked Up) captures the sloppy soul of a particular brand of a-hole. Jonathan B. Wright of Broadway's Spring Awakening turns up as a free-spirited odd duck who insinuates himself with the band, and there are cameos from some faces familiar to the youth crowd, most notably John Cho, Eddie Kaye Thomas, and SNL's Andy Samberg and Seth Meyers. Flavorful musical cuts and pleasantly funky photography add to the film’s appeal, as do clever, underplayed bits of dialogue like “I never wash my pants. I like to keep the night on them.”

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Aspect ratios: 1.85:1

Number of discs: 1

Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1

Street date: 2/3/2009

Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Sony's Blu-ray of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist features a typically strong A/V transfer for a new release. Like a lot of films given post-production digital tweaks, this one can look a bit "contrasty," but it's in line with how the film appeared on the big screen, with good detail and the color scheme intended by the filmmaker (in some scenes, NYC's night lights turn flesh tones bright yellow); the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack is top-notch, a key point for a film that showcases so much music.

Blu-ray exclusives include a Digital Copy; BD-Live access to Cinechat, allowing you to have an online chat with friends as all watch the movie together; Nick and Norah's Interactive Playlist, an enhanced trivia track that accompanies the movie and allows the consumer to create and share via email a playlist of fave songs from the soundtrack; and a Telestrator Commentary with director Peter Sollett and stars Michael Cera, Kat Dennings and Ari Graynor. The latter is a nonstop goof: the telestrator gimmick is a non-starter, the young female stars are giggly, and there's a fair amount of overlapping commentary, making this a tough listen. The "inside joke" feel of the commentary may hold appeal, as there is an eavesdropping on the set quality to it, but there's little insight offered beyond what time of night a given scene was filmed.

Among the extras in common with a simultaneous DVD edition is a second bonus audio track, an audio commentary with Sollett, authors Rachel Cohn & David Levithan, and screenwriter Lorene Scafaria; this one's more serious-minded and informative. You'll also find nine "Deleted & Alternate Scenes" include "Hell No" (1:16, SD), "Tal Remembers the Jerk Offs" (:43, SD), "Attack of the Homeless" (1:31, SD), "Caroline in the Tree" (1:01), "Vomit Comet" (:49), "CD Guy and Caroline Chant" (1:09), "CD Kid" (:50), "Tranny Tris" (1:02), and "Norah and Jesus" (:53). The first four are along the lines of Judd Apatow's "Line-O-Rama" outtake montages, with amusing alternate takes.

The fun continues with a gag reel containing more "Outtakes" (4:12, SD); the strangely mesmerizing featurette "A Nick & Norah Puppet Show by Kat Dennings" (5:12, SD), with Dennings performing a warped summary of the film with paper cut-outs; the endearing home movie "Ari Graynor's Video Diary: A Look Behind the Scenes" (3:56, SD), two "Storyboard Animations" with "Play All" option and optional commentary by Sollett and editor Myron Kerstein: "Opening Sequence" (4:36, SD) and "Nick and Norah Meet" (4:31, SD); a playful, amusing "Faux Interview with Michael Cera, Kat Dennings and Eddie Kaye Thomas" (2:50, SD); Peter Sollett's Photo Album, a high-tech hi-def gallery that can be viewed as a slideshow or by individual shots, with thumbnails for easy access; and "Music Video 'Middle Management' by Bishop Allen" (2:53, SD).

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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