“CHARLIE BARTLETT” (Anton Yelchin, Robert Downey, Jr. & Hope Davis)
Early on in this flick you realize you’re watching “Ferris Bueller – Lite”, which isn’t a bad thing by any means; but then it turns into “Ferris Bueller – Heavy”. You’re left to decide if that was a smart move or not, but I liked the fact that it veered away from being a ‘lesser’ copycat & becoming more original.
The other easy comparison to make is between the titled ‘stars’ of the 2 films; Matthew Broderick played his ‘rascally’ teen with a mischievous gleam in his eye – Anton Yelchin plays Charlie Bartlett as an intelligent spoiled brat who knows ‘mommy’ will buy him out of trouble.
The film opens with Mrs. Bartlett (Hope Davis) discovering her little angel has been making fake ID’s for his private school mates. Having been kicked out of every private school in the county, Charlie is forced into public school where he is ridiculed for wearing a suit & tie & dunked head first into a toilet for carrying an attaché case.
Since Charlie’s family has an ‘on call’ psychiatrist, Charlie begins to make friends the old fashioned way – by dispensing a plethora of prescription meds upon his screwed up classmates (After making a business deal with the bully who ‘dunked’ him)
Another “Ferris’ rip-off comes in the form of the high school principal – Here played by the usually wonderful Robert Downey, Jr. – Except Charlie winds up making a play for the principal’s daughter. At first I had a hard time buying Downey as a ‘straight laced’ high school principal, but it is soon revealed that this guy is more than slightly off his rocker, thus making Downey a good fit.
I found the relationship between Charlie & his mother to be somewhat disturbing – I half expected to see a scene where the pair would be found in bed together. Some of the ‘extra’ characters stories work – some of them fail, but whereas Ferris Bueller never came close to sending out any ‘messages’, Charlie Bartlett does.
Overall I liked this teen comedy – warts & all – because it didn’t follow the ‘formula’ of other teen comedies & just stay silly throughout.