'Charlie,' Heal Thyself

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Friday, February 22, 2008

"Charlie Bartlett" tries to acquire a sort of greatness by osmosis, by revisiting the intellectually rebellious archetype of many classic teen movies such as "Rebel Without a Cause" and "Rushmore."

It's built around Charlie (Anton Yelchin), a sweet-faced but perpetually scheming student whose penchant for bootleg activities, such as issuing fake IDs, keeps getting him thrown out of prep schools. In desperation, his mother enrolls Charlie in a public school where he immediately appoints the school bully to help him become the student body's main rainmaker, the one who procures them various psychotropic meds, including Ritalin and Xanax, and also becomes an in-house shrink, listening to their problems from his office in the restroom.

Even with the presence of Robert Downey Jr., cast against type as a beleaguered headmaster and frustrated father of a teenage daughter, and Hope Davis as the rich, devoted but inattentive mother of our titular hero, the movie feels forced, cliched and derivative.

Not surprisingly we learn that parents need to listen more often to what their kids are saying. What Charlie really needs is a scriptwriter who's forceful and creative enough to break new ground.

-- Desson Thomson

Charlie Bartlett R, 97 minutes Contains drug use, nudity, sexual content and profanity. Area theaters. Charlie Bartlett R, 97 minutes Contains drug use, nudity, sexual content and profanity. Area theaters.


© 2008 The Washington Post Company

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