In ‘Dumb Money,’ Pete Davidson Nails Playing a Total Idiot

Photo Illustration by Erin O’Flynn/The Daily Beast/Sony Pictures
Photo Illustration by Erin O’Flynn/The Daily Beast/Sony Pictures

Halfway through Dumb Money, Craig Gillespie’s star-studded new movie following the Gamestop stock boom, I thought to myself: “Wait, are all these actors just playing heightened versions of themselves?”

Now, I’ve never met Paul Dano, America Ferrera, Sebastian Stan, or Nick Offerman. But based on all their other roles—like The Batman’s Riddler, Gloria in Barbie, Tommy Lee, and Ron Swanson in Parks and Recreation—I can confidently say that these actors are playing the roles they were born to play in Dumb Money. They’re perfectly nerdy, empowered, slimy, and standoffish, respectively.

Still, none of them can beat Pete Davidson, who plays Kevin Gill, a stoner who lives at home while trying to save up the money to move. Kevin doesn’t have the drive to work a normal job, so he steals his brother’s car to operate a DoorDash delivery service, frequently stealing fries and sips of Sprite while en route to drop off orders.

Dumb Money isn’t about Kevin, although at times I found myself wishing it was. The based-on-a-wild-but-true-story movie follows Kevin’s smarter, somewhat more successful brother Keith Gill (Dano), better known as “Roaring Kitty” on YouTube or “DeepFuckingValue” on Reddit. He’s the man who began the GameStop stock-buying craze back in 2020.

‘Dumb Money’ Can’t Make GameStop Short Into Smart Comedy

And although Keith is at the helm of the uproarious GameStop story, Dumb Money is an ensemble film. Several new GameStop investors—like down-on-her-luck nurse Jenny (Ferrera), student debt holders Riri (Myha’la Herrold) and Harmony (Talia Ryder), and GameStop employee Marcus (Anthony Ramos)—get storylines of their own. The suits of the story, hedge fund jerks like Gabe Plotkin (Rogen) and Ken Griffin (Offerman), work together to ensure the rich stay rich amid the GameStop stock-induced short squeeze. Meanwhile, the founder of Robin Hood, Vlad Tenev (Stan), tries to defend his unmanaged stock app.

Everyone is yelling at once, panicking about stock prices and Reddit and livestream. “Diamond hands,” one working class character shouts; a minute later, Plotkin flounces around his mansion loudly whining about its lack of a tennis court. And, beneath all the deafening noise about how easy it is to make money off of GameStop stock, there’s Pete Davidson, falling off bikes while teasing his newly rich brother.

In the past, Davidson has played versions of himself. When he wasn’t doing stand-up on Weekend Update, he was often typecast as someone who was essentially him: a witty sadboy with major pull during his eight-year stint on Saturday Night Live. Two of his own creations, The King of Staten Island and Bupkis, saw Davidson play a fictionalized version of himself. Other movies, like Meet Cute, Bodies Bodies Bodies, and Big Time Adolescence, feature Davidson as… well, other Pete Davidsons. He pretty much always plays the guy with a hot girlfriend, big emotions, and a great sense of humor.

But in Dumb Money, things are different. This time around, Davidson plays an unabashed idiot. He’s a fool, the jokester. Although this is a departure from his usual, more charismatic and sensitive self, it’s a role that suits him.

A still from the film Dumb Money.
Sony Pictures

Kevin is a small enough change from his usual fare that most viewers might watch and think, “This is Pete Davidson playing Pete Davidson.” Really, though, it’s Pete Davidson playing Pete Davidson with a caveat: This Pete has no charm. He eats hamburgers in one bite and gets into skirmishes with his fully grown brother in the backseat of their parents’ car. It’s as if Davidson was asked to play a teenage version of himself in an adult body.

Time to Get Over the Pete Davidson Gossip and Appreciate the Comedy

This is not the Pete Davidson you see out with Ariana Grande, Kim Kardashian, or one of the other dozens of stars he’s dated. This is the Pete Davidson who reminds you of your little brother, the pesky “I know you are but what am I?” kid kicking your seat on the plane. He’s the type of guy that would see his brother make over $10 million in a week on the stock market and, instead of asking for a new car, tease him over being a nerd.

And the best part of Dumb Money is that everyone—from Rogen and Offerman to Ferrera and Stan—in the cast is just a degree away from the characters they usually play. Davidson does it the best, but everyone is a star. That’s what happens when you invest in an ensemble of star players.

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