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Charlie Bartlett (2008) ***

02.23, 2008 Author: Manhattan Movie Maniac

charlie-bartlett.jpgDirector: Jon Poll

Starring: Anton Yechin, Robert Downey Jr., Hope Davis, Kat Dennings, Tyler Hilton

Director Jon Poll, of Meet The Fockers and Goldmember fame, reigns in his usual crazy comedy style to make Charlie Bartlett, which is a subdued dramedy that looks at teenagers searching for answers and asserting their independence in our pill-popping, therapy-driven society. It starts out comic and pulls more toward drama as the film progresses. The story is good and the characters are fine, particularly Charlie, himself. The acting is solid with the well-traveled Downey shining and backed up by a cast of talented youngsters. The dialog is good, but lacks the snappy one liners of more successful films of this genre.

Charlie Bartlett, played by the seasoned, but little known, Anton Yelchin, is a likable rich kid lacking guidance in a one-parent mansion, when his misplaced creativity and entrepreneurial spirit leads him to set up a printing press to make counterfeit ID at his boarding school. He is expelled, and his mother, played by Hope Davis (who also played Anton’s mother in Hearts in Atlantis, strangely enough) decides to try public school, where poor Charlie initially has some problems fitting in, until he turns into the school therapist, and pill dispenser. Along the way, he crosses paths with the new principal, (Robert Downey Jr.) and his cute daughter, Susan (Kat Dennings), as well as the school bully, Murphy, played by Tyler Hilton (nope, no relation to you-know-who).

Charlie Bartlett starts out with a neat idea and the film is slightly reminiscent of classics like Matthew Broderick’s Day Off, Risky Business and dozens of other lesser known features, the titles of which I’ve forgotten. It is pretty decent entertainment, but doesn’t quite have the zip to make it a real hit and I‘m afraid it is destined to join the dozens of unnamed and forgotten films mentioned above.

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