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Review: Charlie Bartlett

The coming-of-age comedy, directed by debutant Jon Poll, is undermined by its amoral viewpoint, avers Rashid Irani.

movie reviews Updated: Jun 27, 2008 19:58 IST
Rashid Irani

Charlie Bartlett


Anton Yelchin, Kat Dennings


Jon Poll


** 1/2

When a troubled teenager attempts to gain the acceptance of his classmates by dispensing prescription drugs at high school, the result is Charlie Bartlett.

Initially ostracised and even beaten up by the class bully, the eponymous misfit (Yelchin) gets into -- and out of – of all species of incredible situations. Believe it or bawl, he becomes the extempore shrink of the student fraternity.

The coming-of-age comedy, directed by debutant Jon Poll (who previously edited Meet the Parents and the last two Austin Powers escapades), is undermined by its amoral viewpoint.

The script (also by a first-timer, Gustin Nash) sidesteps the repercussions of Charlie’s questionable endeavour, even when a ‘patient’ overdoses on anti-depressants. Then there is that sequence showing students, enraged by the installation of surveillance cameras on campus, vandalise state property. Predictably, the messed-up Charlie mends his ways in time for the contrived climax.

On a more positive note, the expert ensemble performances see the film through some of its flaccid passages. Fresh-faced newcomer Anton Yelchin embodies the title character with a spontaneous light-heartedness. Kat Dennings is endearing as his high-spirited girlfriend.

In supporting roles, Robert Downey Jr. as the whisky-sodden principal and the all-too-infrequently-seen Hope Davis as Charlie’s ditzy mother, also keep your interest rooted in the largely implausible goings-on.

In sum, this portrait of rebels with a cause amounts to endurable entertainment.