In 1990s Los Angeles, a thirteen-year-old boy named Stevie (Sunny Suljic) spends his summer navigating between a troubled home life and a crew of new friends he meets at a skate shop.
Who would have thought that comedy actor Jonah Hill would make his way to the director’s chair one day? I certainly didn’t. Hill is one of those actors who is great at what he does, but it never dawns on you that he could make a film of his own one of these days, and back in 2018, he did exactly that with Mid90s, which just so happens to be an A24 film too, which is quite the accomplishment.
Although it definitely has its faults along the way, Mid90s is a perfectly fun and entertaining slice of nostalgia for children who grew up in that decade. Seeing as how I was born in the year 2000, I really can’t relate to a lot of the things that these kids do in the movie, but kids whose childhoods blossomed in the 90s are more than likely going to find a ton of things to love here.
Instead of focusing on the 90s as a whole, and delving deep into what made the 90s so memorable for so many people, the film focuses on a young boy who doesn’t have too many friends. He doesn’t fit in anywhere and has a rather terrible home life. After hanging outside some shops one day, he takes notice of a group of kids a little bit older than him that act a lot “cooler” than he does. They skateboard, do grown-up things like go to parties, and live their lives the way they want to without abiding by any rules.
After a while, Stevie begins to make efforts at hanging out with them. Since they primarily spend their days at various different skate parks around the city, Stevie buys his older brother’s childhood skateboard from him and begins to skate on a daily basis, trying to learn tricks and flips that his older friends can do.
Because he is so young and wants nothing more than to fit in with these older kids, he does every single thing they tell him to do. If they offer him a cigarette, he takes it every single time. It’s obvious by the look on his face that he doesn’t really enjoy smoking and thinks it tastes awful, but as long as he looks cool in front of his new buddies, it’s all that matters to him. If they give him a bottle of alcohol to drink, he chugs the whole thing down until there is nothing left but a drop.
It’s here where Mid90s shows its biggest flaw. The movie almost always presents these older kids as role models towards Stevie and there are absolutely no consequences that come to Stevie by hanging out with these kids until much later on. Even still, after a pivotal scene, he still wants to talk to them and be like them. It would have been nice if the film had a nice and emotional way to show that these kids aren’t good people for this young boy to be around, but instead, the film idolizes them for the most part and I wish they didn’t do that.
Nevertheless, though, Mid90s has a ton of things to enjoy. The attention to detail in virtually every scene is incredible and it really feels like you are watching something that was filmed in the 90s. All of the vehicles, buildings, and articles of clothing are all accurate to that decade and it’s wonderful to see that the filmmakers really took the time and effort into making the film feel as nostalgic as possible.
It’s also a decently funny movie for the most part, as well. There are some jokes here and there that are genuinely bad and come across as distasteful, but a lot of the jokes also manage to be funny which was a delight to see. Another thing that’s enjoyable here is the dynamic between Stevie and his friends. His friends may not be good people, but it’s hard to deny the feeling of joy wash over you as you feel like you are peering into the life of a typical kid living his life in the 1990s, as flawed as it may be.
Mid90s may not be the most emotionally strong coming-of-age film in recent years, but it’s nevertheless an entertaining slice of nostalgia for viewers.
Overall Grade: B-
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive language, sexual content, drug and alcohol use, some violent behavior/disturbing images – all involving minors
Directed by: Jonah Hill
Distributed by: A24
Release Date: October 19, 2018
Running Time: 85 minutes