In the age of preprogrammed beats and inconsequential, identical pop tunes, it’s refreshing to hear some “real” music – say, a group of indie rock musicians jamming out like it’s the mid-1990’s. The band members in Grant McCord’s Teenage Badass put their heart and soul into their songs. They go through the expected trials and tribulations of a raucous rock band, albeit on a modest scale, involving drugs, groupies, betrayal, and reconciliation. Like his heroes, the filmmaker seems to have put his heart and soul into the film, and the result entertains on a similarly minor scale.
Brad (Mcabe Gregg) is a pothead drummer who lives in Phoenix with his supportive mom, Rae (Julie Ann Emery). When the opportunity arises to join a local band, Brad is ecstatic. While guitar player Albert (Dillon Lane) and keyboardist Mark (Tucker Audie) seem cool, the lead singer and songwriter Kirk Stylo (Evan Ultra) is a ticking time bomb: egocentric, drug-addicted, prone to emotional outbursts. Despite his eccentricities, the band performs on the local news, which leads to their partnership with sleazy manager Jordan (Kevin Corrigan). McCord diligently traces the boys’ rise to potential fame.
“…the band performs on the local news…”
It takes a minute for Teenage Badass to get going – the opening scenes are cringe-worthy in their attempts to elicit laughter with shoddy acting and shoddier lines of dialogue. But then, somewhat miraculously, the film falls into a rhythm, a pleasantly DIY, early-Kevin-Smith vibe that’s sustained until the predictable ending. The boys are all pleasantly charming, riffing off each other with ease, while Madelyn Deutch, Karsen Liotta, and especially Julie Ann Emery provide some much-needed soul (and femininity) to this sausage fest.
Kevin Corrigan deserves a special mention of his own. For years now, the actor has delivered some of cinema’s most unforgettable, off-kilter supporting performances (his IMDB filmography currently lists 122 titles). You never know what non-sequitur will come out of his mouth; he constantly catches you off guard with a mannerism or a character quirk. It goes without saying that the scenes with Corrigan are some of the best in the entire film. Jordan’s continuous ridicule of his right-hand man, Buddy the Intern (Matthew Dho), is uproarious; their odd relationship deserves a movie.
Teenage Badass will not set your world on fire, but its empathetic characters, sense of rhythm, knowledge of band jargon, and, most importantly, its music are sure to at least warm your heart. All together now, “Ah-one, and ah-two…”
"…its knowledge of band jargon and, most importantly, its music are certain to at least warm your heart."