Friday, 22 February 2008

GFF Review: Charlie Bartlett – by Joseph Wren

Director: Jon Poll
Screenwriter: Gustin Nash

Running Time: 97 mins

Certificate: 15

On paper, there’s not all that much to like about Charlie Bartlett. He’s a ludicrously rich teenager who runs out of private schools to get kicked out of and lands in public high school - full of stoners, punks, jocks and every other kid expressing their God-given right as a teenager to be awkward, self-involved, and irrational. In order to win over the moody masses, attentive entrepreneur Charlie holds shrink sessions with his classmates in the loo and feeds them all drugs – the legal kind, like Xanax and Ritalin. Do I really want to care about a rich kid who sells drugs in order to boost his popularity with the gritty blue collar lot? Not so much, but actor Anton Yelchin’s performance in the role is bursting with so much charisma that he actually makes it work. Hope Davis is brilliant as Charlie’s cheerily depressed mum, and Robert Downey Jr. works his raging alcoholic magic as Charlie’s authoritative nemesis.

In the school of teen comedies, the smart but cliché-ridden Charlie Bartlett isn’t quite in the same class as Ferris Bueller, Rushmore, or Juno, but Jon Poll’s debut feature has enough charm to merit a passing mark.

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