WWW: Weekend Wrental Wreviews 38

Let's see what I saw this week for Weekend Wrental Wreviews in my 38th WWW:

1) Charlie Bartlett:
Anton Yelchin is a talented kid, as evidenced by this film and his role in Alpha Dog. Based on those films, one can certainly forgive him for being a weak link in the otherwise stellar Star Trek, or his forgettable portrayal of a key figure in Terminator: Salvation. As the titular Charlie Bartlett, he shines as a wealthy kid sent to a regular high school after his antics(making fake IDs) get him thrown out of a private one. His father is out of the picture, and his mother treats him like an adult. Charlie carries himself as an adult, and goes to therapy, and soon finds himself passing on psychiatric “wisdom”(and unfortunately prescription drugs) to his fellow students. His quick thinking turns a bully from an enemy to an asset, and his growing popularity attracts the affections of the principal's daughter(Kat Dennings of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist fame) while attracting the ire of the principal himself(Robert Downey, Jr.). Charlie's actions do have consequences as he gets in over his head, and it builds to a fantastic confrontation that showcases the acting chops of both Downey and Yelchin. It's a modern independent film about teenagers and society, with a slight ‘80s flavor reminiscent of the late John Hughes. Charlie Bartlett is an outcast who dreams of becoming an icon, and his charisma allows him to overcome many of the obstacles that would otherwise keep him down. Recommended.

2) Drillbit Taylor:
I liked this film a lot better than I was expecting to. With Seth Rogen as one of the screenplay writers, adapting a story idea from the late John Hughes(under his “Edmund Dantes” pen name), there was a lot of potential. And with the triumvirate of a skinny geek, a fat geek, and a little socially dysfunctional geek, it does appear to be a watered-down, family friendly version of Superbad, at least on the surface. That being said, skinny guy(Nate Hartley) and fat guy(Troy Gentile) won me over as two relatively unknown leads who do everything they possibly could do wrong on their first day of high school. When they both show up at the bus stop inadvertently wearing the same shirt, it doesn't bode well. When the skinny guy sees the little guy(David Dorfman from The Ring) getting stuffed in a locker, he speaks out, attracting the rage of the bullies and painting a target on himself and his chubby friend. One of the bullies is an emancipated 18-year-old whose parents live in another country, so even the principal can't do anything to stop him, even if he wasn't buying the “harmless hazing” defense. The little guy attaches himself to the other two, and in a fit of desperation they post an ad online seeking a bodyguard. After a montage of potential protectors that includes an Adam Baldwin cameo, they settle on Owen Wilson. As much as I'd like to see a version of the story in which they hire Baldwin, the movie would have been over a lot sooner if he was their bodyguard. Instead, they get Wilson, a homeless man and a perpetual liar more than eager to take money from rich kids, and steal a few things from their houses to pawn and help himself and his fellow homeless buddies. But this is a feel-good comedy, so as the film progresses, he begins to care for the kids, and genuinely see them as being under his wing. While posing as a substitute teacher at their school, he even strikes up a romance with another teacher(Leslie Mann), and gets a taste of what his life could be like if he wasn't on the street. Despite prodding from fellow street-dwellers such as Danny McBride, Drillbit begins to feel his conscience. Will he do the right thing? Will his secret be revealed? There's a formula to these types of movies, but it's a classic one. You can guess where you're going to end up, but getting there is the fun part. With sequences like the fat kid taking down the bully in a rap battle a la 8 Mile, or Wilson surveying the damage to his(in real life broken) nose after getting punched by the bully, there are definitely some really funny moments. Judd Apatow was a producer on the film, and I got a bit of a Freaks and Geeks vibe from the kids, which is what I think I liked about it. This is definitely a movie about the geeks overcoming high school's greatest obstacles, from surviving a bully to winning over your dream girl. It's as much their film as it is Wilson's, and I think these young actors have a bright career ahead of them.

3) Why Did I Get Married?:
I always made the mistake of judging Tyler Perry movies by the package art, and I just didn't get the appeal of a man cross-dressing as an elderly black woman. It wasn't until some friends of mine dragged took me to see Madea Goes to Jail that I got a sense of his talent and storytelling. The old lady he portrayed was just comic relief in a larger tale with serious social commentary, and Keshia Knight Pulliam knocked it out of the park as a drug addict finding an unlikely opportunity to get off the street and straighten out her life, a child actress in a role unlike anything I'd seen her do before. So after seeing trailers for Why Did I Get Married a few dozen times at the beginning of almost every Lionsgate DVD I rented, I finally caved and decided to see my second Tyler Perry film. He's not in drag in this one, instead simply playing a doctor married to a workaholic lawyer played by Sharon Leal(Boston Public). She has a hard time leaving her cell phone behind and not working on a big case while they go on an annual couples retreat with six of their friends, a time when they all work on their marriages. There are some funny moments, and some sad ones, and overall it's a great cast. Michael Jai White(Spawn, Black Dynamite) struggles with his pride working in his abrasive wife's(Tasha Smith) beauty salon, and resorts to lies and secrets when he can't confront her. Janet Jackson lectures couples on marriage and has written a book about herself and her friends' experiences, but even she and her husband(Malik Yoba) have to deal with the tragic loss of her son. It's a film about being human, and the compromises in marriage. There are few clear villains in the piece, only human beings who sometimes want different things, and can't always agree on who will give up what, or even get to that conversation. Richard T. Jones(Terminator: TSCC) is probably the one irredeemable character in the film, the guy who constantly criticizes the weight of his wife(Jill Scott) and is brazen enough to not only sleep with one of her friends, but bring his mistress on the trip with them. It's interesting how the couples that seem beyond hope can be repaired, while even the perfect ones have cracks in their relationship. I'd probably take more lessons from the film if I were married myself, but I'd definitely recommend it to my married friends, especially any who ever considered cheating. There's a great bit about an 80-20 rule. Basically, you might only get 80% of what you need from your partner, but if you go outside your marriage for that other 20%, you might end up sacrificing that 80% for that much smaller percentage. Perry definitely shows some insight into people, and I may check out more of his films, including the sequel to this one, to find out how these characters' marriages are doing.

More reviews to follow next week after I've spun a few more discs!



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