Charlie Bartlett DVD: Review By Brian Gallagher

It’s an incredibly smart, entertaining, compelling and enlightening film that has plenty to offer practically any generation… any generation that wants to listen, anyway.
  • OVERALL
    4.5
    SUPERB
  • Feature
  • Picture
  • Sound
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
THE GOOD
An absolutely wonderful film in all aspects with superb performances from Anton Yelchin, Robert Downey Jr. and Kat Dennings along with exceptional writing and direction.
THE BAD
The special features kind of sucked and Hope Davis is a little too quirky and weird sometimes. Umm, that's about it.
THE FEATURE
Throughout the annals of cinematic history, it seems that every generation has its high school movie that they can call their own. College movies, not so much, really, because ... well, everyone gets drunk and tries to bang each other for four... or five... or however many years before they have to go into the real world that they don't air on MTV. I'm pretty sure that hasn't changed much at all throughout the years. High school changes all the time and, at least once every generation, there is a high school movie that really speaks to the youngsters of that generation and, while I am 13 years removed from high school, I think it's safe to say that Charlie Bartlett is just that movie for this generation... and thank God too because I'd hate to see friggin High School Musical claim that crown...

While I know the movie I'm about to reference isn't a seminal classic, I think Charlie Bartlett echoes a lot of the same things that Pump Up the Volume did way back in 1990. Yes, it was the movie that made Christian Slater famous, and I guess we're paying for that now, but it really was a wonderful flick that delved into the angst and rebellion that so many kids were going through. Charlie Bartlett could almost be called a remake of Pump Up the Volume, perhaps with a little bit of Rushmore, taking those same sorts of themes and modernizing it to jive with today's youngsters, and it does so in just a fabulous way.

The flick revolves around its title character (Anton Yelchin), who isn't your average privileged rich kid. We open the flick as Charlie is getting kicked out of yet another private school because he was running a laminating shop and making fake I.D.'s for his fellow students. He's a very smart and good student, but he does these sorts of things to be well-liked among the student body. When his warm-hearted but disillusioned mother (Hope Davis) sends him off to public school, due to a lack of options, Charlie is back at square one with a new batch of kids to try and fit in with. When Charlie strikes a business arrangement with the local bully Murphy (Tyler Hilton) and they flood the school dance with Ritalin, Charlie becomes an overnight school legend, but he doesn't stop there, taking up the boys restroom as his counseling office, talking to kids about their problems. Of course, this doesn't sit well with the principal (Robert Downey Jr.) for a few reasons. One, Bartlett is shaking things up in ways he doesn't want and, two, he starts dating his daughter (Kat Dennings).

Really, though, that just scratches the surface and there is such a great deal to take away from this little 97-minute film that it's quite amazing. What's so brilliant about this film is that the script from Gustin Nash, who makes a remarkable feature screenwriting debut, is that it exquisitely deals with the problems kids have hand-in-hand with adult problems, mostly through Downey Jr.'s principal/father character. It's an interesting double-edged sword that doesn't just show how much Will "The Fresh Prince" Smith was right with his song "Parents Just Don't Understand," but it shows how much kids don't' understand either and these are both channeled through and dealt with by the incredibly-mature-for-his-age Charlie Bartlett. It's not a film about rebellion and kids being right and parents being *ssholes, but it's about how the pre-conceived notions for both kids and parents need to be truly re-examined for the 21st Century.

We get just a wealth of incredible performances here, all across the board from the smallest of roles, like Mark Rendall, who brilliantly plays the confused outcast Kip Crombwell, all the way up to the rising star Kat Dennings, who wonderfully plays Susie Gardner, daughter of Downey Jr.'s character and girlfriend of Yelchin's title character, and the wonderful Hope Davis as Bartlett's confused mother. The film is topped off by two absolutely superb performances from Anton Yelchin and Robert Downey Jr. Yeah, you might have thought that Downey Jr. came back from the actor's dead with Iron Man, but he's been slowly and steadily building a smashing comeback, which dates all the way back to 2000's Wonder Boys. The snarky attitude that we love in Iron Man is a terrific fit for his high school principal character here, but we get a lot more from him with his struggle with alcoholism and the inability to connect with his daughter, not to mention a terrific, booze-fueled rant towards the end of the flick. The film is titled Charlie Bartlett, though, and the spotlight is firmly planted on one Anton Yelchin, coming off a superb turn as the kidnapee in Alpha Dog, who simply shines in the title role. He is such a natural and perfect fit for this role it's almost uncanny, starting as a kid who just has never dealt with the perils of public high school before, to a kid who became the king of the school in such little time. Hollywood has noticed his talent as well, as he'll be seen in two of next year's biggest movies: Star Trek as Pavel Chekov and Terminator Salvation, as Kyle Reese. Take not of Anton Yelchin, folks, because he's going to be around for a very long time.

Director Jon Poll is another making his feature debut, but only as a director. He's amassed an impressive resume as an editor, almost exclusively in comedies, such as both Meet the Parents films, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged me and, what I felt was vastly underrated, Death to Smoochy. Poll obviously has quite a knack for comedy that shows nicely here, but he can also do the moodier, edgier stuff as well, as we get a little bit of everything in this flick and it's all displayed wonderfully.

Charlie Bartlett is a film that doesn't pull punches and doesn't sugar-coat the lives of youngsters today, but not in an overly-aggressive or exploitative way. It's a simple little film that brings out the complexities in both the young and old in such a spectacular way.
THE EXTRAS
Sadly we don't get a lot here. The features start off with a Restroom Confessional, which is very odd. It's a random collection of actors from the flick and other older peeps that might be producers and it's just a random collection of mock-confessions, including Anton Yelchin confessing to his own Charlie Bartlett character. It all seems improved and some of it is pretty funny, even if it is just for three and a half minutes.

The only other thing we get is a Music Video: "Voodoo" by Spiral Beach and it isn't really a music video at all. It's all just random clips from the movie cut together from the song, which was apparently performed by the band at the dance. We see some shots of that, but still, it's all stuff in the movie. Weird. It's a decent, kinda-weird song, but there's no real reason to watch this "music video."

I really dug this movie and I'm kind of pissed that there wasn't more into the insight of this great story, but oh well.
THE VIDEO
This is a "flipper disc" presented in both the widescreen format in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio and the fullscreen format in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio.
THE AUDIO
The sound is handled through the Dolby Digital Surround 5.1 format.
THE PACKAGE
Set in an eye-catching red artwork and case, this surely gets your attention with not only the coloring, but the appropriate high school way of cut-out pictures and sketches strewn all over the artwork. The front cover features Yelchin taking up the bottom half of the artwork with the title card in the middle, shots of Dennings, Downey Jr. and Davis around that and all these little images and sketches all over the place. The background of the back cover is similar, but we get a big critic quote, a nice synopsis, some very small random pics from the flick, a special features listing and the billing block and tech specs. This was designed quite nicely in a way that will surely grab your attention.
THE FINAL WORD
Charlie Bartlett is really a film about how both the parents and the youth of today have it both right and wrong. It's an incredibly smart, entertaining, compelling and enlightening film that has plenty to offer practically any generation... any generation that wants to listen, anyway.

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Comments (4)

  1. Brian Gallagher

    Thanks for the props guys! More reviews coming this week!

    Peace in. Gallagher out!

    6 years agoby @gallagherFlag

  2. du gangsta

    awsum revew

    6 years agoby @dugangstaFlag

  3. Raoul Duke

    oh, and great review.

    6 years agoby @raoulduke33Flag

  4. Raoul Duke

    lol, High School Musical will never speak for this generation. Dont worry.

    6 years agoby @raoulduke33Flag