Review: Big Time Adolescence

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

Note: This review originally appeared as part of our Sundance 2019 coverage.

PLOT: Sixteen year old Mo (Griffin Gluck) doesn’t have many friends his own age. But, he does have a best friend in twenty-three-year-old Zeke (Pete Davidson), his sister’s former boyfriend. Far from a good influence, the nonetheless charming Zeke treats Mo more like a contemporary than the kid he actually is, getting the both of them into a whole world of trouble.

REVIEW: We’ve all had a Zeke in our lives – he's that older kid who always seemed just a bit cooler, smarter, funnier and charismatic than anyone else. They were the guys who moved effortlessly between social cliques in high school, being friends with everyone from the jocks to the nerds, and who seemed to vanish after high school.

Expertly played by Pete Davidson, Zeke is shown to be a perpetual teenager, spending most of his days smoking weed and drinking beer with his fellow layabouts (including Colson Baker aka Machine Gun Kelly). Like most of the real-world Zeke’s, he’s not a bad guy per se, he’s just a thoroughly unambitious, irresponsible one. We see him give the impressionable Mo booze and drugs, but you never doubt his affection for the younger man, even when he talks him into becoming a defacto drug dealer for his high school’s weekly parties.

The movie, written and directed by Jason Orley, relies completely on Davidson’s performance, even if it’s really “American Vandal”’s Griffin Gluck who’s the actual lead. If you hadn’t been able to buy Zeke’s essential goodness and charisma, the movie would have fallen apart. Here, more than ever, it’s clear Davidson has that X-factor that makes stars, even if he’s such a live wire on the screen you can’t help but worry for his own well-being off camera, given that he seems to be living such a crazy, gossip-filled life.

He really has that seed of unpredictability, but also so much heart that you can’t help but hope Mo somehow finds a place for Zeke in his life even after he outgrows him. Davidson is so likable that you buy Mo’s folks (including Jon Cryer sporting a cool shaved head) not demanding their son cut him out of his life. They know he’s bad, but they also know he cares about their son.

Orley’s made a pretty likable, mainstream film (under the American Teen banner – a new outfit designed to make high school set comedies). Imagine it as the kind of movie John Hughes might have made had he been able to give his movies R-ratings, with Gluck fresh-faced and likable. However, the movie is at it’s best when centered on Zeke and his buddies, and when it was over I still wanted to know what happened to them further down the line – the mark of a well-written/well-acted comedy.

I imagine BIG TIME ADOLESCENCE will for sure appeal to Pete Davidson fans, but even if he’s not your cup of tea, give this a shot. It reveals there’s more to him than what you see on SNL, and if anyone was going to break out and be the next Adam Sandler or something, Davidson would have my bet.


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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.