Licorice Pizza

Licorice Pizza ★½

PTA can make any scene feel like a revelation, but he’s hardly swinging for the fences here. This movie is digressive, largely pointless and far beneath his skills. Even if you take out the infuriatingly dumb star turns—Sean Penn and Tom Waits eat up screen time and contribute almost nothing meaningful back to the narrative; and Bradley Cooper’s slapstick cameo is little more than a tribute to Bradley Cooper’s ego—the supposedly electric chemistry between the two youthful leads drifts unevenly way too often. I had a lot of problems with Cooper Hoffman’s “Gary,” too; his character seemed to be whatever PTA felt like he needed from act to act, whether it was a precocious teenager, a child actor, a hustling water bed salesman, or, all of a sudden, a pinball arcade proprietor. What? Despite it all being beautifully shot and staged, none of it really makes any sense, and a lot of it is incredibly boring. There is an element of “Return to Boogie Nights” here that may compel some viewers, but even setting aside how overrated that movie was, with “Licorice Pizza” PTA has aimed low, far lower than someone of his talents ought to be allowed to. Worse, he misses in a big way.

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