Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Charlie Bartlett (Review)

Charlie Bartlett is amusing high school comedy teeming with pop psychology and self aware teens just waiting for the spark that breaks them from their clicks and inspires everyone to come together to have fun and fight the man. The spark is the titular character played by Anton Yelchin and the man is hard drinking Robert Downey Jr. Yelchin brings a kind of goofy charm to the roll much like he did as the unwitting victim in Alpha Dog and the character is given to flourishes of zany teenage wackiness, a refreshing break from the genre where most writers feel the need to bury these character building parts of their adolescent memory in favor of plot. Bartlett is the perfect aspiration character for a film like this, the mischievous outcast who uses his wits and to become king-o-the-school. Most of the characters in the film are archetypes with obvious psych 101 issues but since that is the plot of the film is don’t see it as a problem, the same with some of the more predictable and cheese ball moments that both flow from this and are pretty much par for the course in the genre.

What I liked the most was that the film isn’t about sex and parties – which are just treated as banal parts of the HS experience – or about the clique-y nature of HS politics but instead focuses on the identity quandaries and psych issues of the students. The film owes much more to John Hughes’s Breakfast Club than American Pie or Clueless but the black and white nature of authority that was present in that classic is also investigated in this film. The filmmaker’s paid more attention to the “moment” between Vernon & Carl and drew that out into a full character who is in the end also a victim of the system. I can’t say whether this will become a classic like those films – I guess TBS will be the judge of that when they get broadcast rights – but it was an enjoyable film none the less.


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