The King of Staten Island (Blu-ray Review)

By now, a new Judd Apatow movie means a film working to balance humor with pathos, while pushing the limits of its story via a lengthy runtime. For a comedy, The King of Staten Island is most certainly another Apatow flick requiring the viewer to determine whether or not 2+ hours were essential. As it stands, however, while ‘Staten Island’ does take its time, there is a lot to like about this salt-of-the-earth city and the characters from this film who reside there. The film opened on VOD this past June and has now arrived on a packed Blu-ray full of extras, in addition to a terrific transfer.


Part of what has affected the various Apatow films, and even some of the ones he has had an influence on as a producer, is the choice to make them semi-autobiographical. ‘Staten Island’ is no different. Much like Apatow’s previous narrative feature, Trainwreck, while not personal to him, he’s working with a younger stand-up to push some ideas based around their life. In this case, Pete Davidson stars in the movie as Scott, a guy in his mid-20s with no ambition, and is still grappling with the death of his firefighter father, who’s been gone since Scott was seven.

While Davidson has enough genuine talent to have gotten himself a position on Saturday Night Live for the past several years, his real-life issues have been no secret. His father really was a firefighter and first-responder who died as a result of the events of 9/11. Davidson has problems related to borderline personality disorder, and also suffers from Crohn’s disease, which is reflected in the film. He also has over 40 tattoos, which are prominently displayed in ‘Staten Island’ and factors into the plot.

For the film, regardless of how much Davidson is putting himself into Scott (he has stated there’s not too much separation), the performance is effective because of how honest it feels. While there’s a divergence in the lives of the fictional character and the performer, the success comes from seeing some form of transformation over the course of the film. The only real issue is the small scale of things when considering how big of a movie this seems to be.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with a shaggy feature that is fine letting the viewer hang out with the characters for a while before pushing towards story momentum and finding a resolution. As Apatow has clearly taken influence from James L. Brooks, among others, I can see the fondness he has for playing around with his characters. At the same time, there are aspects of ‘Staten Island’ that feel more like interludes for the sake of having them, without adding much value to the film beyond extended laughs.

This is a long way of saying the movie almost matches the low-on-ambition drive of Scott throughout the film. There’s a sense of aimlessness for a while, before Apatow and co-writers Davidson, and Dave Sirus really decide to start making any forward momentum with the story being told. There’s an argument to be made that it’s all the more fulfilling to see where these characters end up, based on having the film be so front-loaded with an all-encompassing look at them. At the same time, fewer hijinks with Scott and his friends would have been a benefit to tightening up this feature.

All of this in mind, it’s hard to complain about the veteran actors and comedians who play pivotal roles here (and all with Staten Island accents, no less). Marisa Tomei is Margie, Scott’s mother and an ER nurse, who puts up with her son quite well, but is exhausted. Bill Burr is Ray, a hot-tempered firefighter who gets into it with Scott due to a tattoo incident with Ray’s very young son, only to eventually start going out with his mother. And then there’s Steve Buscemi coming in as Papa, a veteran firefighter (as he is in real life), who works at Ray’s station and knows a thing or two about Scott’s dad.

The arc of ‘Staten Island’ is nothing all that surprising. Scott has to come to terms with the loss of his father, as well as push himself to do more with his life, whether it is seriously pursuing becoming a tattoo artist, being involved more with the firefighter community he’s a part of, or whatever else. The film takes a long time to get there, but it’s not short on the laughs and the amount of heart required.

Assisting in this journey, along with the older actors, is Maude Apatow as his sister, Claire, who is the most upfront with Scott about things, but also heading off to college. There’s also Bel Powley as Kelsey, his childhood friend who he’s been seeing in secret. And it really wouldn’t be true to Davidson if he didn’t have a group of friends he smoked weed with, so this set includes Oscar (Ricky Velez), Igor (Moises Arias), and Richie (Lou Wilson).

The ensemble allows Davidson to play off of other actors in different ways to ideally give the young comic a chance to shine. Fortunately, Staten Island does work well in showing off the various layers of Davidson. Understandably, as a comic, he has a brand that doesn’t necessarily appeal to everyone. I find him humorous enough in a stand-up setting, but there’s a performative component to what he brings to pre-filmed sketches on Saturday Night Live that transfers well to a feature. It’s basically an inherent likability that was previously showcased in Big Time Adolescence and is at the forefront here. There’s just something about the energy of how Davidson plays a well-meaning screw-up that works for him.

Does this mean Davidson is transcendent as a comedic actor in feature films? I wouldn’t go that far. ‘Staten Island is a bit too busy and messy in its screenplay to make that case. However, Davidson, along with Tomei, Buscemi, Powley, and the always hilarious Burr, makes a good case for why this comedic character study is worthwhile. Apatow also ably brings what’s needed from a directorial standpoint, thanks to help from cinematographer Robert Elswit, even if the film meanders too much.

It’s not too long to not enjoy though. Running time issues aside, there’s value in The King of Staten Island. It’s a well-meaning film that allows a young man a chance to share his story filtered through an entertaining series of events that push the comedy buttons pretty well. That it also has a good amount of heart goes a long way to helping the film earn the royal status it wants to hold, as far as ruling over New York’s smallest borough.



Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1

Clarity/Detail: Universal’s release of this Blu-ray is as impressive as I would expect. A modern studio release isn’t going to surprise with a clear visual presentation, but that’s in no way a knock. This is Apatow bringing in Robert Elswit to handle the cinematography, and the result is his most visually impressive feature that is full of detail in it’s depiction of Staten Island, from the dirty basements to the clean firehouse.

Depth: There’s a great level of dimensionality on display here. It comes across in seeing the characters dropped against various scenic backgrounds, particularly when the gang is close to the water.

Black Levels: Black levels are generally consistent, deep, and inky throughout. Everything looks natural, with no signs of crush. Apatow has come a long way from the sictcom-y look of The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

Color Reproduction: While there’s an attempt to adopt a particular color palette, the film does well to make the colors on display pop. Look at the above-ground-pool, for example, let alone the red firetruck.

Flesh Tones: Facial textures register very well. You get a good amount of detail when looking at the characters up close.

Noise/Artifacts: Nothing to report here.



Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos, English TrueHD 7.1, Spanish and French DTS Digital Surround 5.1

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish and French

Dynamics: It all sounds great, and with an unnecessary Atmos track, no less. This is a dialogue heavy film, but Apatow is not above having some nice audio work on the track in the form of score and music cues. It all comes through cleanly.

Low-Frequency Extension: The LFE Channel gets moments to work with thanks to some of the party moments where the soundtrack is allowed to blast it out.

Surround Sound Presentation: The surround presentation has everything needed to make this comedy-drama come to life in your home. It’s mostly center-focused, but the other channels help this film maintain a balance.

Dialogue Reproduction: Everyone sounds loud and clear.


As with any Apatow feature, The King of Staten Island is another packed release full of gag reels, alternate scenes, and more of that kind of fun. Plus, tons of conversations with the cast and crew, and other areas informing the production.

Features Include:

  • Audio Commentary with co-writer/director Judd Apatow and co-writer/star Pete Davidson
  • Alternate Endings (Which Didn’t Work!) (HD, 3:57)
  • Deleted Scenes (HD, 16:21)
  • Gag Reel (HD, 5:53)
  • Line-O-Rama (HD, 4:37)
  • The Kid from Staten Island (HD, 19:04) – Davidson and Judd Apatow talk about their experience working together and the personal nature of the film.
  • Judd Apatow’s Production Diaries (HD, 31:44) – On-set talks about production.
  • You’re Not My Dad: Working with Bill Burr (HD, 4:42) – Apatow and Burr talk about their approach to his character.
  • Margie Knows Best: Working with Marisa Tomei (HD, 3:21) – Apatow and Tomei talk about why she’s overqualified for this film.
  • Friends With Benefits: Working with Bel Powley (HD, 3:54) – Another conversation with Apatow and a cast member, in this case Powley, and their work on the film.
  • Sibling Rivalry: Working with Maude Apatow (HD, 4:35) – Apatow’s daughter, now an actress in her own right, discusses her role in the film.
  • Best Friends: Working with Ricky, Moses, & Lou (HD, 3:56) – Ricky Velez, Moises Arias, and Lou Wilson discuss their roles as Scott’s best friends and working on the set.
  • Papa: Working with Steve Buscemi (HD, 2:51) – Apatow, Davidson, and others discuss why the great Buscemi was perfect for his role in the film.
  • Friends of Firefighters Stand-Up Benefit (HD, 6:19) a comedy show made while making the film, with Davidson and Apatow, featuring Burr, Velez, and Lynne Kopliz. The proceeds went to the Friends of Firefighters organization
  • Scott Davidson Tribute (HD, 5:28) Davidson’s and friends share stories about the late Scott Davidson, Pete’s father.
  • Who is Pete Davidson? (HD, 3:30) – Family, friends, and filmmakers discuss their hopes of what will come from the film’s release, and why it was important to Davidson.
  • The Firehouse (HD, 3:20) – A discussion what it was like shooting in a real firehouse and attempting to accurately capture the environment.
  • Pete’s Casting Recs (HD, 3:00) – Davidson’s friends featured in the film talk about him.
  • Pete’s’ ‘Poppy’ (Grandpa) (HD, 1:54) – Apatow shares his experiences on directing Pete’s grandfather in his film debut.
  • Video Calls (HD, 21:00)
  • Official Trailer (HD, 2:30)
  • Digital HD Copy of the Film


I’ll be curious if The King of Staten Island is able to build an audience in the way some of Apatow’s other films have. The work is certainly there, even if it’s not the most ambitious of film. Having the theatrical release canceled feels like a foretelling of things to come for movies like this, which is a shame, but the film is still out there for people to see. That in mind, there’s lot of great work put into this Blu-ray release on all fronts, most notably the large collection of extras. Fans of Apatow, Davidson, and comedy-dramas can find something to enjoy here.

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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