While "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist" isn't without some concerns, one can only hope the sweet, thoughtful and funny film signals a shift in the teen film genre away from the familiar cliches or lowbrow flicks that have been seen so frequently over the years. The picture, which is produced by the Weitz brothers ("About a Boy") and directed by Peter Sollett ("Raising Victor Vargas") stars Michael Cera ("Arrested Development") as heartbroken Nick, who still calls his ex-girlfriend, Tris (Alexis Dziena), despite the fact that she's clearly moved on from him.
While Nick continues to send Tris mix tapes, they wind up sparking the interest of Norah. With his friends realizing that Nick is still depressed over Tris, they pull him out into New York City in order to find the secret location where their favorite band, Where's Fluffy is playing (complete with clues on the bathroom wall of a club.) Norah also decides to head out on the town, and when she's challenged about her boyfriend status, she grabs Nick out of the bar for five minutes in order to take the role.
The two stumble out into the night with the rest of their group, eventually losing their drunken friend Caroline (Ari Graynor), who winds up lost and wandering around Midtown. There's really not all that much to the film; it's all about the journey into the night and the chatter between Nick and Nora that gradually grows into something more.
While the journey is amusing, thankfully director Sollett keeps the film at a tight 90 minutes, as there's not enough here to push the length to two hours - even as, a couple elements (such as Norah's ex, played by Jay Baruchel) could have been dropped without much effect. There's a bit of "Before Sunrise" to the film, as well as maybe a touch of "Go" with all the edge removed.
The performances are largely good, although Cera continues to play the awkward role he's perfected (and is probably becoming typecast as.) While Cera doesn't do anything different, he's perfectly paired with the more outgoing Dennings, whose appealing mix of smarts and sass plays off the quieter Cera well. Graynor's also enjoyable in a supporting performance as the drunken Caroline, who's a minimal character at best, yet Graynor develops the character into a rather bittersweet creation. Dziena's supposed to be something of a villain, but she takes the character too far into brat territory.
While it's not going to win any awards (and there are a few minor issues, such as the fact that how are kids in high school who are likely supposed to be in their teens are able to wander in and out of what appear to likely be 21+ NYC clubs in the middle of the night), "Nick and Norah" is a fine little film, and will probably make for enjoyable viewing for teens who are looking for something more witty and charming than the predictable teen flicks of recent years.
VIDEO: "Nick and Norah" is presented by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment in 1.85:1 (1080p/AVC). While not without a few minor irritations, this was generally a very fine transfer. Sharpness and definition were more than satisfactory, with very good small object detail in many scenes. While the picture doesn't achieve the three-dimensional feel of the best Blu-Ray presentations, depth to the image is still above-average, especially in the exterior scenes in NYC.
Some mild grain is seen at times during the night scenes, as well as a few instances of slight noise. However, on a positive note, no edge enhancement, pixelation or print flaws were spotted. Colors generally came across looking warm and rich, with nice saturation and no smearing or other concerns. Black level remained solid, while flesh tones looked spot-on. Although not a reference quality presentation, this is certainly a fine effort from the studio.
SOUND: The film is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1. The film's audio is generally forward-oriented, but the surrounds are used at times to provide some ambiance during some of the interior scenes, as well as during some moments out on the streets. Audio quality is fine, with crisp dialogue and clear, well-recorded music.
EXTRAS: Director Peter Sollett, actresses Kat Dennings and Ari Graynor, as well as actor Michael Cera offer a commentary for the feature, complete with occasional use of a telestrator to draw on the screen NFL-style. The second commentary comes from Sollett, authors Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (whose book the film is based on) and writer Lorene Scafaria, but they aren't lucky enough to have the ability to draw all over the screen. Both commentaries certainly have their share of pros - the actors commentary is amusing and offers some good behind-the-scenes stories, while the the writers/director commentary discusses inspiration and production issues. However, on the flip side, the actors commentary can ramble at times, while the writer/director commentary does heap the praise around a little much during some sections of the film.
"Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist" is part jukebox - pick songs from the film to play later - and part trivia track (factoids appear at times throughout the picture.) "Nick and Norah Puppet Show" is a far shorter version of the story, acted out by Dennings with puppets. 9 deleted/alternate scenes offer some amusing moments, but are rightly left out. A few minutes of outtakes are a bit funny, too. A joke interview with Cera and Dennings being interviewed by actor Eddie Kaye Thomas is a laugh-free zone.
We also get animated storyboards, a video diary from actress Ari Graynor, a music video, previews for other titles from the studio and a photo album by director Peter Sollett. There's also a new feature (for BD-Live enabled players) called Cinechat, which is not going to be working until the release date, but will allow viewers to send messages to one another while watching the film. A digital copy of the film is included on a separate disc.
Final Thoughts: "Nick and Norah" is a fine little film, and will probably make for enjoyable viewing for teens who are looking for something more witty and charming than the predictable teen flicks of recent years. The Blu-Ray edition offers very good video quality, fine audio quality and a very nice helping of extras. Recommended.
The Film B-