Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Review of Charlie Bartlett

At the end of the month, I plan to do a mid-year report of what I've seen so far. There's an excellent chance this makes my "low five."

This review was originally published in Home Media Magazine. Many thanks to my editor John Latchem for making it the lead review of the week. Very cool, indeed.

By the way, happy birthday, Dave.

Charlie Bartlett grossed only about $4 million when it was released in January, but sometimes quirky high-school movies take a while to find their audience. Witness Dazed and Confused and Donnie Darko.

Those movies, however, brimmed with originality.

The same cannot be said of Charlie Bartlett. After he’s thrown out of another prep school, scheming teen Charlie (Yelchin of Alpha Dog and the upcoming Star Trek revival film) heads to public high school. Starved for popularity, he achieves it by giving advice and drugs as a makeshift psychiatrist, using the boys bathroom as his office and the school bully (Hilton of Walk the Line) as his pharmacist. Charlie makes a difference while making the moves on his principal’s daughter (Dennings of The 40-Year-Old Virgin).

Despite the presence of pros Davis (Charlie’s loopy mom) and Downey Jr. (Charlie’s boozy principal nemesis), Charlie Bartlett is a lazy compilation of teen movie greatest hits, from the clique smashing of The Breakfast Club to the scheming entrepreneurship of Risky Business. The movie features an annoying lead character who solves problems by doling out pop psychology and treats adults as short-sighted buffoons. It is crammed with contrived problems and easy solutions.

Teens should relate to the movie’s positive attitude and adult hijinks, if they haven’t seen any teen comedies released in the past 25 years.

The DVD extras add little to the experience. The commentary with first-time director Jon Poll and writer Gustin Nash contains some interesting behind-the-scenes tidbits: Nash’s script was originally darker; Poll got to select Dennings’ nail polish from 35 colors. The other pointless commentary featuring Poll, Yelchin, and Dennings consists primarily of the young actors swooning over their co-stars and giggling. The DVD also has a music video from Spiral Beach and lame “Bathroom Confessionals” from the cast and crew.

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