The Spring of Pete Davidson

'SNL's' charming rogue has been on a tear so far this year. Let's take stock of everything he's done and how it stacks up.

The Spring of Pete
Complex Original

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The Spring of Pete

Despite the leg-lock COVID-19 put on Hollywood early in the year, a few stars have managed to shine brightly still. Pete Davidson, especially, is in the midst of a capital-M Moment, riding into summer 2020 off of a particularly hot spring. There was the stand-up Netflix special Alive in New York in late February. In March he brought vigor to the coming-of-age trappings of Big Time Adolescence as a burnout, darkest-timeline version of Pete’s charming, wild-style manchild brand. SNL's quarantine episodes seemingly reinvigorated his contribution to the show. And now in the waning days of the season those lines have blurred even further in the 8 Mile-esque sort-of-biopic King of Staten Island, co-written and directed by Judd Apatow, the patron saint of shaggy, manchild coming-of-age-stunted-growth dramedies. With King out today, Complex Pop Culture editors khal and Frazier take a look at Pete’s trajectory so far, and whether his moves have set him up to fully blast out of the Hollywood stratosphere.

So, he’s shining. But is any of it good?

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Frazier: Around the end of 2019, if you remember khal, I was kicking around a ‘Pete Davidson Is the Man of 2020’ piece (or at least, a man) off the strength of King of Staten Island alone. Getting in the driver’s seat of a Judd Apatow-branded vehicle feels like a rite of passage on the path to comedy superstardom—albeit less-so in the ‘10s than the aughts but then again, Judd came off the bench for Amy Schumer like he never left, so who’s to say? This is the moment that decides if Pete’s gonna be the SNL rogue who pulls dimes forever and pops up elsewhere at random (not a bad existence at all) or the next true-blue star out of 30 Rock. So far, the momentum is shaping up to be the latter. It’s a bummer that King of Staten Island won’t be the theatrical moment it was intended to be, but it’s a safe bet that this won’t be a VOD release quickly forgotten about by next Friday. 

As for the movie itself, it’s good, even if it isn’t reinventing the wheel from what we’ve come to expect from Judd projects. King is chock full of flourishes unique to Pete: the setting both broad (Staten Island) and particular (Mom’s house). Davidson’s firefighter father died responding to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, in King Scott lost his firefighter father similarly, albeit to a more germane response call; the name Scott is a homage to Scott Davidson; and speaking of the other Scott crucial to Pete's story, the film is bookended by Kid Cudi songs. Even Pete’s real grandfather appears as Scott’s grandfather in an early scene. Scott goes through life as if he’s moved on from the event, but when the wound opens up and he lashes out at his sister or the always welcome Steve Buscemi, is when the film feels most alive. Despite all of that though, this still plays like a movie we’ve seen before. It’s an amalgam of every shaggy slacker-grows-up comedy we’ve seen Judd do before and Davidson, much as I like him, isn’t always enough to help it feel as if we're not treading well-worn ground. Still, with the great Bill Burr as a sparring partner and a stacked supporting cast ranging from National Treasure Marisa Tomei to a gem like Pamela Adlon, King of Staten Island is a good return on that two-and-a-half-hour time investment.

khal: I remember those 2019 days; that was Pete’s post-Ariana turn-up year, and word of this Judd Apatow project (and pics of a bloody Action Bronson from the set) had me just as hype as you were. I don’t want to say I was let down, but the movie is just cool. It’s what I’d expect from Apatow and Davidson doing a film that mirrors major parts of Pete’s real life. Do I wish it was more? Sure. I imagine it could’ve shaved some time off and picked up the pace a bit earlier, especially when it comes to Scott learning how to be a whole adult. There are sparks of what Pete could do in a rom-com or in a stoner buddy flick (which you should probably check Hulu’s Big Time Adolescence for), but ultimately I kind of wished it was more. And maybe a bit more of the sides of Pete we haven’t really seen. Again, it's cool, just not what I thought it’d be.

Which Pete is the Best Pete?

Pete Davidson and Bill Burr in 'The King of Staten Island'

Where does he go from here?

Pete Davidson and Steve Buscemi in 'The King of Staten Island'

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