Review: ‘Charlie’ channels teen classics
A genuinely funny movie is a breath of fresh air after a winter of greed, revenge, war and popping strangers in the head with your cattle gun.
We likely won’t hear a peep out of “Charlie Bartlett” during awards time next year, but that certainly doesn’t mean to skip it automatically. Despite the fact that it’s not a challenging work of art, a true original or even pee-your-pants hilarious, the well-crafted, well-acted and well-mannered comedy is a breath of fresh spring air after a long and deadly serious winter.
That “Charlie Bartlett” owes a lot to “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “Mumford” and “Accepted” is no crime ” at least it’s not too derivative of any one of three solid comedies. The tie with “Mumford” is probably the strongest: That 1991 comedy had little-known Loren Dean playing psychiatrist in a small town alongside Hope Davis, who is a holdover for “Charlie Bartlett”: This time, Davis plays the mother of the title character (relatively unknown Anton Yelchin), a prep-school expat who plays shrink in an effort to fit in at his new public school.
In spirit, “Charlie Bartlett” reminded me not only of “Bueller” but also the overlooked “Accepted” ” Steve Pink’s create-your-own-college caper from two summers ago ” right down to the fake IDs that land Charlie in hot water.
The real humor of “Charlie Bartlett” comes from how the title character parlays his meetings with the psychiatrist his family keeps on retainer into his own booming amateur practice at school. In the Hughes tradition, there’s something more to each of Charlie’s patients (Tyler Bivens stands out as mohawked bully Murphey Bivens) than caricature. As a result, director Jon Poll’s take on West Summit High School in Connecticut seems sweetly nostalgic and down-to-earth in comparison to a glut of recent teen movies.
The debt to Hughes is deep, even beyond two scenes I’m pretty sure pay direct homage to “Weird Science” and “The Breakfast Club.” It has a sense of humor similar to Hughes’ comedies, neither as self-consciously quirky as, say, “Juno” nor as broad as the likes of the “American Pie” cycle. I didn’t laugh as hard ” or as often ” at “Charlie Bartlett” as I did at “Accepted,” but in the end, I thought it was a better, more consistent movie that created more believable characters.
“Charlie Bartlett” might never achieve the universal appeal its title character craves, but it’s a very easy movie to like.
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INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Incline Village General Improvement District Trustee Kendra Wong gave an emotional statement in defense of district staff during Wednesday’s board meeting.