September 5, 2008 / 11:38 PM / in 10 years

"Nick and Norah" a sweet teen romantic comedy

TORONTO (Hollywood Reporter) - All goes smoothly in “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist,” Peter Sollett’s sophomore effort following “Raising Victor Vargas.” Perhaps too smoothly.

Unlike his first film, you can pretty much guess where things are headed. From a dramatic standpoint, “Nick and Norah” tends toward the bland side. On the other hand, outside of a few gross-out moments, perhaps contributed by producers Chris and Paul Weitz, the film has a sweetness usually missing in teen flicks. And that is very refreshing.

The film’s young stars, “Juno’s” Michael Cera and “Charlie Bartlett’s” Kat Dennings, certainly make an engaging pair, both romantically and comically, so the Sony Pictures Classics release should have legs for a solid opening on October 3, attracting teens and a college crowd.

The setup is a bit perfunctory. Two high school seniors — Nick (Cera), still in a funk over his breakup with an irresistible though philandering hottie (Alexis Dziena), and Norah (Dennings), a music mogul’s discontented daughter — are put on a collision course to spend a night together as they chase around Manhattan in search of the secret gig of a favorite band.

The all-nighter is sprinkled with several diverting characters in a script by Lorena Scafaria, adapting a novel by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. Nick gets the evening started by gigging with his own indie rock band, the Jerk Offs, which other than Nick is all-gay. (It must mark a turning point in gay images onscreen that this can happen without anyone thinking it unusual.) Band members keep popping in and out of the story, as late-night turns to early morning, and so do Nick and Norah’s exes and Norah’s inebriated girlfriend, Caroline (Ari Graynor in a game performance).

The comedy charts the ebb and flow of the flowering relationship between Nick and Norah as they spark to each other, flirt, grow jealous, get angry, pull apart, then realize they feel good together.

Running gags are plentiful. These include Nick’s Yugo, which often is mistaken for a cab, and a piece of well-chewed gum that makes a nearly complete circuit of the characters and winds up in one place that constitutes the film’s high (or rather low) point of foulness.

Sollett, a New Yorker, shows off the city at night as only a native could. It is a pretty tame tour, though, as the only dangers are Norah’s erratic driving and Caroline’s severe dysfunction under the influence.

As befits characters that love to mix CDs (Nick) or grew up in the music business (Norah), the film boosts a dynamite soundtrack.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

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