NEVER GOIN’ BACK review by Mark Walters – being young & broke can be hilariously stressful

NEVER GOIN’ BACK review by Mark Walters – being young & broke can be hilariously stressful

We’ve all been there… well, at least if you weren’t born rich or handed everything without working for it, but most folks can relate to being young and broke. I’m talking about the kind of “young and broke” where you’re still in your teens, trying to support yourself and also find time to party and be a free spirit. And the results usually vary, but often lean toward the “hard lessons” category. The new movie NEVER GOIN’ BACK explores these concepts as a stoner comedy, though there’s more going on here than you might think. It’s the feature directorial debut from writer/director Augustine Frizzell, and it’s one of the coolest films to hit theaters as the summer movie season begins to wind down.

Angela (Maia Mitchell) and Jessie (Camila Morrone) are best friends who share a “modest” house (they fill water jugs from the washing machine spigot) in Texas with Jessie’s dimwitted brother Dustin (Joel Allen) who aspires to be a gangster drug dealer, and their horny friend Brandon (Kyle Mooney) who works at a sub shop and frequently hooks them up with free food. The girls dream of going to the beach in Galveston to unwind with one another, but are stuck working at a miserable diner, and things fall apart when their front door is busted in by an angry black man named Tony (Kendal Smith) who is looking for Dustin and some missing money. This daytime break-in and commotion leads to police at the house questioning the four inhabitants, and the girls end up getting busted for drug paraphernalia in their room. That bust finds them spending two days in juvenile detention, where Jessie refuses to use the bathroom, and upon release she finds herself now unable to go… yes, this becomes a plot point of the film. They soon learn that Tony, who is now buddy-buddy with Dustin, was angry because Dustin was robbed trying to do a drug deal, and now the girls have to cover his side of the rent when they can’t even afford their own. They need to get back to work and get serious about things… but hey, they’re young and the urge to party seems to overcome their better judgement way too easy.

One of the things that makes NEVER GOIN’ BACK an absolute delight is the chemistry between Maia Mitchell and Camila Morrone, who you totally buy as best friends and totally believe as careless and naive girls who think they can take on the world. They are children trying to act more mature than they could ever be, and the result of that behavior leads to many hearty laughs. Even if you don’t respect their habits, you can’t help but love them, they become a goofy comedic duo that carry the film and make it a fun experience. The supporting cast is great too, with Joel Allen and Kendal Smith finding their own beats to make a dynamic pair of frequent foils for our heroines. Matthew Holcomb plays a somehow even more dim friend of theirs who turns that section of supporting players into a trifecta of funny as the film approaches the final act. But it’s Kyle Mooney who feels like inspired and perfect casting as Brandon, the sex-obsessed sandwich shop buddy who is more innocent and vulnerable than he lets on. I loved him in BRIGSBY BEAR, and I loved him equally here.

For a first time narrative feature, Augustine Frizzell has turned in a powerhouse effort that lives up to its hype on many levels, and becomes a crowd pleaser in almost effortless fashion. Even in a theater filled with the most professional of film critics, I heard some hearty howls of laughter, many coming from me as well. The tight editing by Courtney Ware keeps the film moving at a brisk pace too, there’s never an opportunity to get bored or distracted. And the soundtrack is the perfect compliment of toe-tapping tunes that all feel carefully and expertly chosen. Some might label this a “stoner comedy”, but there more there beneath the surface and the end result is very satisfying. What makes Frizzell’s script so much fun is that it doesn’t hold back on being raunchy or bold when you least expect it. It’s safe to say that in a movie headlined by two young women, you probably wouldn’t expect a lot of vomit, poop, and perverted sex act jokes, but there’s plenty of it in here, and somehow it never seems excessive or exploitative. There’s even a running gag about how the girls, who never find time to bathe after being released from juvenile detention, smell awful to pretty much everyone they come in contact with. These are non-glamorous protagonists in extreme ways, and yet I still fell in love with them, which may explain why it’s easy to buy into the idea that everyone on screen kinda loves them too.

Someone asked me to describe NEVER GOIN’ BACK and compare it to similar films, and my answer was simple – mix PINEAPPLE EXPRESS with THE FLORIDA PROJECT, with only the best parts of SPRING BREAKERS, then take out all the serious commentary and just enjoy the ride. As perfect and complete as the film feels when the credits roll, I would gladly welcome NEVER GOIN’ BACK AGAIN should the girls and Augustine decide to do it… oh, and bring back Kyle Mooney too, because he’s the cherry on top of this masterpiece.

NEVER GOIN’ BACK is now playing in Dallas and select cities

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About the Author

Born and raised in Dallas, Mark has been a movie critic since 1994, with reviews featured in print, radio and National TV. In 2001 he started the Entertainment section of the Herorealm website, where he contributed film reviews and celebrity interviews until 2004. After three years of service there, he started, which has become one of the Dallas film community's leading information websites. Bigfanboy hosts several movie screenings in the Texas area, and works closely with film and TV studios and promotional partners to host exciting events and contests. The site also features a variety of rare celebrity and filmmaker interviews, and regularly covers the film festival circuit as well. In addition to Hollywood reporting, Mark has worked for many years as an advertising and sci-fi/comic book artist. Clients have included Lucasfilm Ltd., Topps Trading Cards, The Dallas Mavericks and The Dallas Stars. From 2002 until 2015 he managed the Dallas Comic Con, Sci-Fi Expo and Fan Days events in the DFW area. He currently catalogs rare comic books and movie memorabilia for Heritage Auctions, and runs the Dallas Comic Show conventions, but remains an avid moviegoer and cinema buff.