Movie Review: 'Teenage Badass' Rocks Just Enough
Affable, good natured stoner rock comedy, Teenage Badass is fun and worth a rental.
Teenage Badass is an affable, good natured coming of age story about a teenage drummer named Brad (Mcabe Gregg) who gets a big break when he’s offered the chance to audition for a popular local band in his little corner of Arizona. Though only 19, Brad is an impressive talent but it may have been as much timing and luck that lands Brad the gig. The band’s lead singer, Kirk (Evan Ultra) is a deeply troubled addict but also kind of music genius, the music is really good even as his behavior is nearly unbearable.
Brad is joining the band alongside Kirk, bass player Albert (Dillon Lane), keyboardist Steib (Tucker Audie), and Kirks’ girlfriend, Candice (Madelyn Deutch). Candice isn’t technically a band member, she doesn’t play an instrument or appear on stage, she just has a habit of mentioning herself in conjunction with the band, as if the band were her’s as much as anyone. The filmmakers repeatedly make mention of Candice’s habit of using the terms ‘We’ or ‘Us’ when discussing the band, as if this type of stolen musical valor were a particular pet peeve of the filmmakers.
Brad is rushed into action as the newest member of the band as they have a gig in just 3 days after he joins. The band is performing in a contest for the chance to play a song on a live television news show. Despite barely becoming a member of the band, Brad fits right into the debauched circle of friends, partaking of drugs and alcohol in a fashion accustomed to being in a rock n roll band. The debauchery isn’t of a mythical variety like classic rock n roll stories of the past but the drugs are plentiful.
As for the other aspect of the rock n roll lifestyle, the pursuit of women, Brad is smitten not long after joining the band, by a friend of Candice’s. Melanie (Elsie Hewitt) is the bartender at the band’s favorite hangout and she’s willing to overlook Brad’s distinct lack of identification to let the band enjoy each other’s drunken company. Melanie takes quite easily to Brad whose boyishness and mop of red curls have a particular kind of charm.
The band has a chance to break big but Kirk’s temperament and drug problems are a serious threat to their success. Kirk’s flights of fancy, which include randomly threatening to fire each of his bandmates, makes the chance of success for the band, eventually dubbed Stylo and the Murder Dogs, iffy. Success becomes especially troublesome when Candice and Kirk break up and Kirk throws himself into excess.
I’m of two minds on the loose, sprawling quality of Teenage Badass. On one hand, I like these characters and their comfy dynamic. On the other hand, there was more than one occasion during Teenage Badass when I wanted the movie to pick up the pace and take on a more traditional narrative quality, if only to get to the point in a more direct fashion. The movie, from Co-writer-Director Grant McCord, lingers in a space between plotlessness and plot. There appears to be a destination in mind but getting to that destination, there a few detours and delays I could have done without.
I also have to take issue with the title Teenage Badass. I am not quite sure what I was expecting from that title but the movie doesn’t warrant such a title. Brad is not a badass. He’s a terrific drummer and a sweet soul but he’s not a teenage badass. The term Teenage Badass never comes up in the movie, not one time. Why that title? Why not call it Stylo and the Murder Dogs? Or something related to being a drummer? It’s not a reason I would use to not recommend the movie, it’s just something that nagged at me.
Teenage Badass is funny and features some terrific music. Mcabe Gregg is a charmer whether stoned out of his gord, playing ferociously timed drum licks, or entering into a tenuous first romance. There is plenty to love about Teenage Badass even as the movie has an often too loose approach to storytelling. Teenage Badass will be available on your favorite streaming rental service on Friday, September 18th, 2020.