There are literally hundreds of coming of age films out there. Some are great, and some are not so great. You really don’t know what you are going to get until the film introduces its lead character. And you make a decision as to whether or not you can relate to them. North Hollywood falls somewhere in the middle, with the compelling main character being the reason the film isn’t a disaster.
Michael (Ryder McLaughlin) has just finished high-school and he knows exactly what he wants to do with his life. He wants to be a pro-skater. Unfortunately his father Oliver (Vince Vaughn) has other plans for him. He tells his son that he can continue to skate, but his focus needs to be on either going to college or getting a job in the construction industry. After all being a pro-skater is a tough career to make a living at and his father wants him to have a good life.
Over the course of the summer, Michael finds himself not wanting to follow either option his father has given him. Michael befriends a group of pro-skaters with hopes of breaking into the industry. Michael also starts to drift away from his life-long friends who are moving on with their lives as well. He gets a girlfriend for the first time in his life. He knows if he chooses to chase his dreams he will have to do so alone. And in order to do that he’s got a lot of growing up to do.
Ryder McLaughlin is the reason North Hollywood works. He makes Michael a compelling, awkward and interesting character you want to see succeed. Even though his dreams are more than likely different than yours were when you were growing up, you can still see a lot of yourself in him. He makes mistakes that we all make, and stumbles through the ‘what next’ phase we all face. There are a lot of other bits and pieces that make the film enjoyable and fun to watch. For instance, there’s Vince Vaughn being his usual hyper, fast-talking self. But unfortunately, the film feels very disjointed at times.
For instance, it’s hard to tell if Vaughn’s character finds his son annoying. Or maybe he just wants to comically throw observations out there that we’ve all had to deal with with our teenagers. He tends to teeter between both, which makes it hard to tell. Other good examples are Gillian Jacobs’ short cameo as a guidance councilor who gives Michael advice and is not seen again. And Miranda Cosgrove’s turn as his aloof girlfriend who seems more like she’s in awe to be in the film than actually playing her character well. While the movie is about Michael and his trials and tribulations, there still needs to be stability in the storytelling and acting. Otherwise, it’s just a bunch of stuff tossed at the wall with hopes that something sticks.
North Hollywood is writer/director Mikey Alfred’s first feature film, and it feels like it. Like Michael, he has a lot of growing up to do, but it’s a good first attempt. While it might not be a movie you rush out and see, it’s one you can still enjoy when you have an hour and a half to spare.