Are we down to one shaker cinema? In that case let me save time and give you two-for-one: a high school afternoon special and a video store fiasco.
In “Charlie Bartlett” (2007) we are supposed to find this Richy-Rich lovable ala Ferris Bueller. However, outside of the irony of Robert Downey Jr. as a principal trying to warn kids off drugs, this film is ridiculous and flat. Anton Yelchin as the title character tries hard and with his wealth and crazy mom alludes to “Harold & Maude” right down to a song plucked from that film that no teenager on earth would be singing. Besides borrowing from better coming of age films, the heavy handed moralizing on teen drug use, authority and personal identity are just too awkward and stagey. While I give it credit for trying to be a step up from the gross-out films of the teen comedy genre, this one is just the wrong prescription. “Superbad”, “Election” and the oldie “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” show us how serious issues can be covered in a high school setting without sacrificing the laughs.
Speaking of high school, “Be Kind, Rewind” (2008) is set in Passaic, NJ which is next to my hometown hood of Clifton. However, that city will not be sending the filmmakers a “thank you” note anytime soon since the city is played up as being a major slum which is a slight exaggeration. Writer-director Michael Gondry who gave us the very good “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind “and the very bad “The Science of Sleep” puts another in the bad column. Mos Def is just not funny and Jack Black is occasionally funny but not allowed to shine. The story of a store that has all its' VHS tapes erased. (Yes Passaic has also just heard of DVDs) only to have our two heroes replace them with shorter parodies of their own making should be hilarious. Yet only some of the parodies are even funny, and they only come after an overlong setup which involves evil city officials and Fats Waller. (Don’t ask!) This film actually looks like it was slapped together by the two idiots themselves and goes from bad to almost unwatchable. How did Danny Glover, Mia Farrow and Sigourney Weaver get pulled into this mess? Be kind to yourself and miss this and re-rent “Clerks”.