Winded and weary from its long journey to a bigger screen, C.D. Payne's 500-page 1993 novel has been squeezed into a 90-minute Cliff's Notes version starring Michael Cera as Nick Twisp as Every Role Michael Cera Has Ever Had. Nick—portrayed in the novel as a 14-year-old "I'm Single, Let's Mingle" T-shirt-sporting, foreign-film-watching, Frank Sinatra–listening, Oakland-stuck virgin—has been stripped of his eccentricities, his smarts, his specialness. Now he's just another horny, too-smart movie teen doing whatever he can to get the girl (Sheeni Saunders, played by Portia Doubleday) between woefully animated sequences and surrounded by sketched-out weirdos, among them Steve Buscemi as his creepy dad with a bimbo galpal, Ray Liotta as a fascist cop in line to sleep with his mom (Jean Smart, who already played this part in Garden State), and Erik Knudsen as Lefty, so named because that's the direction in which his dick bends. It's as if the writer (Charlie Bartlett's Gustin Nash, now 0-for-2 in the revolting-youth sweepstakes) severed the jokes and hijinks from Payne's plain yet playful narrative with a dull ax. The surrealism and sensitivity of the novel, which spawned a cult of collectors who trade the limited-run first edition for hundreds of dollars, has been boiled down 'til it tastes like pungent tween formula.
Cera is adorable. The movie? Not so much.
Opens at Metro and other theaters, Fri., Jan. 8. Rated R. 90 minutes.