Charlie Bartlett: A 4 out of 10 review
This is the first review I’ve made in what seems like a lifetime. Apologies for that, I’ve been concentrating on news items instead (finding the day’s news is so much cheaper than paying out for the cinema every five seconds – or thereabouts). Anyway, enough of my personal whinge, it’s time to go all out nuts on a film I should have liked: Charlie Bartlett.
I say I should have liked it for two reasons:
1. It wasn’t a superhero movie
2. I am Charlie Bartlett
Okay, so not literally. I don’t believe my name is a Mr C Bartlett and I live in a mansion, have a rare Mercedes as a personal taxi and a mother for a loon (1 out of 4 is not bad). I merely mean this character mimicked my life in my teens. First off, he came from a well-off family (did originally – we’re all broke now). Secondly Charlie went to state school after having a private education. Thirdly, he wanted to be adored, respected, loved, known etc .. (what teen doesn’t want that). Okay, so I am clutching at straws here, but the point is, I am closer than most to the character portrayed on screen and therefore I should be able to empathise with him more easily right? WRONG! So very very wrong! Maybe it’s my self-hatred working overtime, but every time this character was on screen talking (which was a lot of the time) I thought of only one word: “wanker”. Yes that’s right. I used the “w” word. I attend cinemas with a notebook and marked an asterix every single time I thought the “w” word. In total, the asterix’s amounted to 167. That’s a lot of hatred. The fact is the writers didn’t seem to care that the main character on screen came across as such an annoying swine.
This, you may feel is not a good beginning to the review, but rest assured the tone changes slightly. Okay, it doesn’t: This kid was good at everything...EVERYTHING! You know the type of kid in your school, if you have played the guitar for 10 years and he would pick up the instrument for the first time and play a perfect rendition of Stairway to Heaven. I resist using the “w” word again. I really want to, but mustn’t. It is important to maintain some decorum whilst reviewing...apparently.
There are many problems in the film (ignoring the “w” word for the time being). Firstly, the actor playing Charlie Bartlett (Anton Yelchin) was incapable of playing the part correctly. I am not sure whether to accuse the actor of being incapable and should go back to working a fast food outlet, or is it the writers and director to blame? I do hope it’s the writers and director’s fault because he plays Chekov in the upcoming Star Trek film.
It is important to establish where the target audience is before producing a film. I for one am incapable of thinking of one audience that would find this entertaining. It is too “hip” for the elderly, too dull for the younger audiences, too mediocre to be valued by anyone in between. So I ask you Mr Charlie sodding Bartlett, where do you fit in? Maybe this film would have done better in a year when we had nothing but crap expected for the coming year. Releasing this film between Iron man and Indiana Jones is a mistake of the highest proportions!
The synopsis is thus: A rich kid becomes the self-appointed psychiatrist to the student body of his new high school (source IMDB). I bet you were bored when you read that synopsis. In fact, the plot summary could have been so much more interesting by saying , a local painter and decorator attend a parents evening. At least then, you couldn’t predict the storyline from it. My knowledge of films’ past is not as good as some on the net, but I’m sure I’ve seen this story somewhere before. Either that, or many parts of the story have been cobbled together to make an incoherent mess. In fact, if you put regular singing in it, and some pink jackets you would have almost a perfect copy of Grease 2. That’s right: Grease 2. The one that Michelle Pfeiffer won’t discuss (due to extreme embarrassment about the role). The film that most of the United Kingdom wasn’t even aware of until I wrote this post. To be fair to Grease 2, it had its redeeming points. There was Frenchy in that film along with some great comedic moments from Adrian Zmed. I appreciate that it was nowhere near as good as the original Grease, but it had a certain charm...and music....unlike this rubbish.
This movie could have been so much better and that is what is annoying me most (except for Charlie “w-word” Bartlett”). Robert Downey Jr played well in his role (although he doesn’t seem to make a convincing father to me). Charlie’s love interest played by Kat Dennings was very well played (except for the quite embarrassing song near the end). The character of Len Arbuckle was excellently played by Dylan Taylor, Kip Crombwell (played by Mark Rendall) and not forgetting Murphey Bivens (played by Tyler Hilton – no relation to Paris). All of these characters and more, were infinitely more interesting than the main character. If they had focussed on the entwining lives of each of these characters and how they perceive (and are perceived), I would have truly loved this film. It could have been called – “A High-School tale”. Brilliant! Instead, some incompetent chooses to call the movie Charlie Bartlett and make him such a difficult character to like that you hate the film the second he opens his big mouth. Even if they had focussed on the other characters more, a niggling feeling would still be aggravating me. Each of the characters are so stereotypical that you wouldn’t need to get to know how their feelings. Thanks to other films with identical characters the work is all done. Here’s a rundown of the main characters
1. The yob: - Mohawk, misunderstood, bullied as a child so he now bullies
2. The Depressed one: - I guess you’d call him “emo” now, but he is worried about no-one caring or even noticing his existence.
3. The idiot: - Kind hearted, overweight, not all there, verging on mental retardation and always smiling
4. The intelligent but misunderstood girl (wears too much lipstick): an “actress”
I could name many films that each of these characters have made an appearance in. This is not good. It is important to have originality.
The first and biggest mistake of this film was the title. Charlie Bartlett tells you nothing of the film...at all. The second mistake was that of scripting, it should have focussed on all of the sub-characters equally. The third and final mistake was that of casting. Anton Yelchin brings nothing to this role that a teenager from any high school in the world could have done. Nothing.
Despite my rants, you’d think I actually hate this film. Hate as they say, is a strong word. The fact is I felt nothing for it at all. Movies (like books) are supposed to be emotive. After watching this, I felt like spending an equal amount of time going to a hardware store and discovering the hypnotic qualities of the colour beige.
Admittedly, the soundtrack was good though. 1.2 out of 10