When Michael Cera first burst onto the scene almost two decades ago, he played almost exclusively nerdy and whiny, nasal-voiced dweebs. No character better encapsulates this than George Michael Bluth from “Arrested Development.” I have a firm belief that you can trace the entirety of Michael Cera’s career as an almost direct parallel to how the character of George Michael is portrayed. Cera has gone from the pedestal of innocence, to the embodiment of strangely dickish and cool, to a young man-child who has perhaps overstayed his welcome and now it’s not entirely clear what is next for him.
In the early days of Michael Cera and “Arrested Development,” both were quirky, well-loved and a wee bit indie. Cera went on to star in “Superbad,” “Scott Pilgrim v. the World” and a number of other popular comedies, his celebrity status slowly rising. Simultaneously, Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, Mae Whitman and other “Arrested” alumni began to make it big in multiple facets of the entertainment industry. Netflix users discovered and binged the early seasons of “Arrested Development” and clamoring for a revival slowly reached a fever pitch.
It’s 2013. “Arrested Development” returns in a new format with a new Michael Cera. In the intervening years since the show went off the air, Cera had grown up and become “cool,” appearing as a parody of himself in the raunchy comedy “This is the End” and redefining the role of George Michael Bluth as a suave (but still bumbling) college student who’s now knocking up his Euro-zone hookup and sleeping with a woman who’s also dating his father. This version of George Michael still has the youthful charm of young Michael Cera but now also includes the irony of the fact that that youthful charm has now slightly grown up. This is the transitional Michael Cera, the liminal Michael Cera, the Michael Cera that you still trust despite some feeling deep within your soul telling you that doing so is a huge mistake. This version of “Arrested Development” was similar. Some loved it, some didn’t, most people shrugged their shoulders and said, “Hopefully next time it will be better.”
Cut to 2018. Michael Cera is now bordering age 30 and appearing in Aaron Sorkin movies as Tobey Maguire. “Arrested Development” is back for another go around except this time it is mired in controversy surrounding Jeffrey Tambor’s alleged sexual misconduct and the male cast bumbles their way through one of the cringiest New York Times interviews in recent memory. Everything from “Twin Peaks” to “Roseanne” to “The Last Man Standing” is getting revived. Donald Trump is President. The days of pining over new episodes of “Arrested Development” are a distant memory. If anything, most fans of the original show are now helplessly hoping they never have to watch Jessica Walters break down in an interview because of the way her co-stars are acting ever again. Michael Cera being in love with his cousin just isn’t funny anymore, not when both are old enough to have kids of their own. This is the final stage of Michael Cera. The moment when the bitter taste of nostalgia comes back to bite you in the ass and leaves you wondering what it will be like when a 70-year-old Michael Cera is hitting on a similarly aged woman who’s been rejecting his advances since they were 11. Still laughing? I sure hope not.