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There’s a 10-minute span of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist that I really enjoyed.

It happens about two-thirds of the way through the movie, when all of the clichéd supporting characters, contrived circumstances and cheesy dialogue fades away. Then, for the first time Nick (Michael Cera of Juno/Superbad fame) and Norah (Kat Dennings – the daughter from The 40 Year Old Virgin) finally get a chance to behave like real people. They talk, and joke, and stroll through the streets and it all feels very … real. Or at least that kind of Hollywood reality that isn’t really real, but you want to pretend it is.

But then, as quickly as it arrived, it all vanishes.

Its disappearance is ushered in by a line of dialogue so awfully, artificially fake (it’s a reference to Judaism) that the spell is broken and the movie reenters into a miserably unpleasant world – the kind of world where heroes are defined as people unbearably indifferent to how ridiculously cool they are. Watching this movie reminded me of that weird, mid-90s wannabe-grunge culture phenomenon where the most popular people were trying really, really hard to disdain popularity. And this, more than any of the objectionable material in Nick and Norah (and there’s a lot), is why I hope teenagers don’t see this movie.

The plot of the movie is fairly typical – heartbroken guy and insecure girl meet, and fight, and eventually get together, but not before having to confront their pasts. There’s also a gum-obsessed, falling-down drunk friend who’s lost somewhere in New York, and a trio of gay guy friends who are all pulled directly from the “gay sidekick” Hollywood screenwriter assembly line. There’s also a hidden concert featuring Nick and Norah’s favorite obscure band (of course they must be obscure because uncool cool people don’t like bands people know about).

There’s a lot going on. And none of it feels real.

There’s no model for teenagers of what life should or shouldn’t look like, just a subliminal message that feigned apathy is the surest way to be liked by the right kind of people. Which is exactly what we want our students doing more of, right? I mean, what youth pastor hasn’t wished “if only my students show more projected indifference to impress their friends!”

And remember that reference to objectionable material? In addition to a ratings-pushing amount of profanity, we’re also treated to the sound of Norah orgasming (although it happens of camera) and a Christmas-themed gay party that isn’t exactly an orgy, but isn’t too far from it.

No I realize I’m being pretty harsh, so let me say this isn’t the worst movie I’ve ever seen. It’s not even the worst movie I’ve reviewed for this web site. But it bothers me that this movie wants so desperately to be “about something” when really it isn’t about anything. And neither are Nick and Norah, no matter how disarmingly charming they may be. Don’t teenagers deserve better than this?

Josh Pease – not Josh Treece – has never been cool enough to feign uncoolness – everyone just already knows he isn’t cool. He also works on the high school team of Saddleback Church and would love to hear any comments/criticisms/suggestions. You can email him at joshp@saddleback.net.

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