Review by Diana Saenger
Charlie Bartlett begins as somewhat of a typical coming-of-age teen comedy, but by the second act it had me thinking it's an original idea with some clever dialogue and stand-out performances. Though many are comparing it to Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986), I thought in some ways it mirrors the more recent Juno, last year's Oscar-nominated film.
Hope David and Anton Yelchin
Charlie Bartlett (Anton Yelchin) is a wealthy kid being raised by his often clueless mother (Hope Davis). When he gets kicked out of his posh private school for making illegal driver's licenses for the students, her only comment is what a good job he did.
Anton Yelchin and Tyler Hilton
Anton Yelchin and Robert Downey Jr.
Anton Yelchin and Kat Dennings
Charlie complicates this issue when he starts dating Gardner's daughter, Susan (Kat Dennings). Gardner's life is already unpleasant. He's a single dad, who drowns dislike of his job in a bottle, but holds a tight rein on his daughter. And he definitely does not approve of Charlie Bartlett. Yet the enterprising young man works his magic with this problem as well.
The script by new screenwriter Gustin Nash is very clever, especially in developing Charlie's character. While Charlie walks though life exceptionally cheerful and seeming to be impenetrable, at his core he's really in turmoil about his missing father; a subplot revealed near the end of the movie. Nash also infuses the story with funny moments that move beyond bathroom humor and unfold through some great performances, such as that of Hope Davis, as Charlie's slightly out-of-touch mother.
Robert Downey Jr. effectively bridges the concerned dad and the disillusioned principal into a compelling character, thereby making the movie even more resonant. Kat Dennings (The 40-Year-Old Virgin) is also terrific as the subdued and apprehensive teen who wants her independence. Watch for Dennings to quickly make her mark in this business.
Granted, there are some cliché moments in Charlie Bartlett, but its combined intelligence and humor really work. I’m pleased that it's a movie older teens and parents can see together; a rare thing today. The film received an "R" rating, so it's not for anyone under 17, but the movie takes the reality of today's teen culture and -- through many hilarious moments and serious ones as well --offers reflections of how these situations might be resolved. And let's face it; we can all use some genuine laughs these days.
Photo credits: MGM/Sidney Kimmel Entertainment
Anyone who likes a good movie with humor