Charlie Bartlett

Naive, boring depiction of high school


Charlie (Anton Yelchin) is a rich kid who has managed to get himself kicked out of just about every private school around the mansion where he and his mom, Marilyn (Hope Davis) live. Charlie apparently has a knack for coming up with schemes (fake driver's licenses, etc.) that get him to the top of the wrong dean's list on a regular basis.

Marilyn decides that it's time for Charlie to try his luck at a nearby public high school, were he arrives via school bus as opposed to the family limo. His first day, dressed in sports slacks and a blazer with a crest on it, he is automatically pegged as a dork, and someone to pick on by the school's resident loser, Murphy (Tyler Hilton).

Along the way, he finds true love with Susan Gardner (Kat Dennings), who just happens to be the daughter of the school's alcoholic, depressed principal (Robert Downey, Jr.). It's the usual boy meets girl -- boy gets girl -- boy loses girl -- thing.

In a short time (necessary for the film), Charlie becomes the hero of the school by becoming a shrink of sorts for the many dysfunctional members of the school.

He also manages to procure a variety of pharmaceuticals, gained by deceiving a number of legitimate shrinks, that he gives to his patients, while diagnosing their various problems and kinky issues (one of the girls can't say no to the members of the football team when they want to have sex with her).

In this predictable fairy tale (and it's definitely that), Charlie runs afoul of the principal, who has him hauled off to jail at just the right time. Needless to say, the kids rebel and trash their school hangout.

Like most of these formulaic teenage, romantic comedies, Charlie and the principal become buds, Charlie gets to live out a fantasy of his own (standing before a crowd of cheering people who love him), and Susan and Charlie live happily ever after.

This film attempts to carry on in the tradition of "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," but fails to come even close to it. The biggest disappointment is the characters played by Downey and Davis. The talents of two very good actors were totally wasted in this naive, boring depiction of high school life of today, which, I doubt, has any similarity to the real thing.

One-and-half stars out of four.

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