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Movie Review

Nick is depressed. His girlfriend Tris just dumped him. He even made her a "please don't dump me" CD of great songs, but, like so many other playlist mixes he'd made her, she just tossed it in the school's trash can.

Norah is a high school classmate of Tris' who's never met Nick, but who's been picking his CD mixes out of the trash for some time now. She thinks he must be the coolest guy.

The two are thrown together quite by accident while Nick's band is playing a local gig. Norah, trying to avoid a vindictive Tris, locks lips with Nick as her "five minute" boyfriend—not knowing that he's the ex that Tris has been badmouthing.

And so begins a long night's journey—and another Hollywood teen comedy. Nick and Norah are slapped together like two wads of chewing gum during an awkward French kiss. Nick's bandmates try to hook up their moony friend with this new girl. A jealous Tris tries to break them apart. Norah sets off to find her wandering, inebriated best friend, Caroline. And everyone romps through Manhattan looking for a fun time and good music.

Positive Elements

Nick and Norah recognize that they have common interests ("You're literally, like, my musical soul mate!") and they come to realize that being with a caring, giving person is much more rewarding than hanging with flashy and pretty users.

Norah is a very consistent friend. And it's obvious that she has a pattern of looking after her heavy-partying friend when Caroline drinks too much.

Spiritual Content

A drunken Caroline finds herself sitting on a city sidewalk at the feet of a man who, despite his cigarette, looks like—and proclaims himself to be—Jesus. She crawls after him into what she thinks must be a church and finds herself in the midst of a gay men's Christmas musical called Midnight A--.

Norah is Jewish and someone makes a derisive comment concerning that. She later talks to Nick briefly about her favorite part of Judaism. Norah's ex-boyfriend is part of a band called Oz-Rael. (Their latest CD features the Star of David on the cover.)

Sexual Content

Though not overtly or explicitly visual, sexuality in one form or another is very evident throughout the film. The most notable aspect is a casual acceptance of teen hookups—both homo- and heterosexual.

It's readily acknowledged that Nick and Tris were regularly having sex while dating. Tris tries to rekindle some of that old flame by snuggling with Nick, licking his ear, dancing seductively and placing his hand on her clothed breast. And Norah admits that even after she's broken up with her ex that they are still "friends with benefits."

When Caroline and Norah are watching Nick's band—which is called The Jerk Offs—Caroline crassly calls her friend a "dirty little slut" while making a quip about her lusting after oral sex. (Indeed, there are several oral sex jokes delivered at different points in the film.) Nick and Norah kiss on several occasions and ultimately go way past kissing. Even though the camera pans away, we hear them undressing, murmuring and Norah eventually having an orgasm.

Homosexuality (male and female) is evidenced by gentle caresses and hand-holding. And it's these relationships that seem to be the only ones that produce happy and contented participants. Nick laments his hetero woes to his friends, saying, "You don't know what it's like to be straight."

It's noted that Nick's band—with him being the only straight member—is a "queercore" band. After passing out drunk, Caroline comes to in the back of the band's van and hears the boys discussing new names for the group (using highly sexualized slang for the male anatomy). Based on what she hears, she believes they've kidnapped her and are planning to rape her. The actors in the Christmas musical dance and sing with a sexualized flamboyance.

All of the young women shown, including Tris, Norah and Caroline, wear outfits that are either very form-fitting or low-cut and cleavage-revealing. Caroline, while in a drunken stupor, is tossed over a guy's shoulder, and the camera maintains a clear view of her raised skirt and exposed underwear. A couple climb into Nick's Yugo, then kiss and grope each other in the back seat.

Violent Content

When Norah's ex-boyfriend starts pushing Nick around, one of Nick's friends steps up and head-butts the guy in the face, breaking his nose.

For "humorous" effect, a drunken Caroline stumbles and falls through a large portion of the film. While being carried, her head gets slammed into an open van door. She repeatedly tumbles to the floor inside the careening vehicle. And she trips and falls to her knees in a public transit bathroom.

Crude or Profane Language

An f-word and a euphemism for the f-word ("effing"). About 10 s-words. Other foul language includes three or four uses each of "d--n," "h---," "a--" and "b--ch." Jesus' and God's names are both misused. God's name is combined with "d--n" once. There are numerous vulgar references made to male genitalia.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Teens drink beer and other alcoholic beverages in a number of club scenes. Several youths (particularly the aforementioned Caroline) stagger around for prolonged periods in an inebriated state.

Other Negative Elements

While drunk, Carol makes out with a stranger and ends up with his gum in her mouth. As a running gag (and I do mean gag), the gum then winds up in such places as a vomit-filled toilet and a bus terminal window. Each time it's picked up and shoved back into someone's mouth.


I'm sure that the moviemaking minds behind Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist—which is based on the bestselling young adult novel of the same title—were hoping to create a teen comedy with a fresh, independent feel. A polished, extendo YouTube video of sorts that mixes the quirky cuteness of Juno with the romp factor of After Hours and the escapade thrill of Ferris Bueller's Day Off. (Only hipper.)

It's obviously intended to capture what some must see as every suburban teen's dream adventure of wandering freely—and all night!—through the streets of Manhattan while debating their favorite iTunes bands, having sex with like-minded strangers, and ending up ... in love. It's a place where everybody is too cool to care about curfews. And the worst problem you face is figuring out which grubby public toilet your drunk-out-of-her-mind best friend is currently puking in.

The Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist that's hitting theaters, though, doesn't even reach those less than lofty heights. Instead, the flick comes off as a collection of mostly mundane and unfunny scenes that are so low-key (thanks in large part to Michael Cera's deadpan underacting) that comatose would be livelier. And the running background soundtrack of the latest derivative bands—music you can't recall two minutes after hearing it—is equally yawn-worthy.

(In other words, this thing wouldn't go viral if it were a free online download, much less $8 per peek at the multiplex.)

But never mind all that. The real issue here is an easygoing acceptance of carefree teen drinking and sex of all sorts. That's the laissez-faire worldview that'll make you want to take your cues from Tris and toss this Playlist in the garbage.

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Michael Cera as Nick; Kat Dennings as Norah; Alexis Dziena as Tris; Ari Graynor as Caroline; Aaron Yoo as Thom


Peter Sollett ( )


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Bob Hoose

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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