As coming-of-age movies go, writer-director James Meredino’s SLC Punk has a pretty ingenuous hook, being a softhearted look at the early-’80s punk scene in the unlikely locale of Salt Lake City. Pitched at the level of a mildly euphoric buzz, the film is slight and forgettable and a pretty good time.
Assuming that one is sympatico to vintage punk and new wave music – the soundtrack ranges from the Dead Kennedys to Blondie – and is not put off by Merendino’s appropriately hyperkinetic directorial flourishes, the main obstacle to enjoying this little lark is actor Matthew Lillard who plays Stevo, the film’s main character, narrator and all-around wacky guy. Lillard, of Scream fame – and She’s All That lesser-fame – generally comes on like someone with a neglected thyroid condition, a lanky geek whose constant surges of energy contort his features into that of a happy gargoyle.
Normally, a little Lillard goes a long way, but his jejune spazzing fits Stevo like a glove and his unconvincing attempts at sincerity and insight as he explicates the punk scene for the viewer set the right comedic tone. Also good is Michael Goorjian as his bud Heroin Bob, a natural space cadet who wouldn’t dream of taking drugs, and Christopher McDonald as Stevo’s dad, caught between his dismay at his son’s blue hair and his desire not to seem to be too out of it.
The film’s manic energy winds down only when the story reaches the point where it’s time to grow up and sell out. There’s a wonderful little flashback toward the end showing a prepunk Stevo and Bob – the latter an enthusiastic Rush fan, a nice touch. It’s an unexpected blip of realism, coming as it does at the end of what is essentially a well-done live-action cartoon.
Richard C. Walls writes about the arts for Metro Times. E-mail him at [email protected].