Peter Sollett’s 2002 film, Raising Victor Vargas, remains among the most pointed, poignant, and joyful films about teen love ever made. Everything about it felt special, from its depictions of the Lower East Side of Manhattan to its cast, then-newcomers who seemed to radiate from within as they groped and coped beneath watchful eyes. Now, Sollett can only retrace those steps in this far lesser movie about little more than a boy (Michael Cera, once more in the Michael Cera role), a girl (Kat Dennings), and their friends cruising the streets of NYC in search of the latest, greatest, hippest band in all the land (a band we never see or hear, incidentally, which shorts the audience of at least one promised reward for making it to the movie’s end). From its indier-than-thou soundtrack—larded with the likes of Vampire Weekend, Bishop Allen, and Band of Horses—to its split-second hipster cameos (Devendra Banhart, Seth Meyers, John Cho, Kevin Corrigan), this after-hours romantic comedy plays like the exact opposite of Victor Vargas: Where that movie was organic, with every scene hitting just the right note and feeling so magically accidental, Nick and Norah plays like something crafted in a lab by 54-year-old hucksters trying to sell shit to the kids under the cheerless guise of “alternative.” The only thing it’s an alternative to? Good.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 1, 2008