Good news for anyone hankering for a teen movie that doesn’t follow the plot of She’s All That. Charlie Bartlett will take care of you.
Charlie Bartlett, written by Gustin Nash and directed by Jon Poll (Meet the Fockers), delivers a refreshingly accurate take on a kid trying to fit in at high school. Initially, it seems like a mashup of The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (one character is a football player who just wants to go to Paris), but Nash makes the movie applicable to today’s audience.
The plot centers on a wealthy teenager named Charlie Bartlett (Anton Yelchin), who tries to become popular at the public high school he attends after getting kicked out of a private institution. Eventually he’s accepted as the school’s unofficial psychiatrist, dispensing advice (and occasionally prescription medication) to his peers. Between classes, psych evaluations and dodging the principal (Robert Downey Jr.), Charlie finds love and deals with his problems.
Nash doesn’t moralize or try to teach the audience that it’s “what’s on the inside” that counts. All that matters to most teenagers is whether or not people like them. Nash writes Charlie’s struggle to become popular with great sincerity which makes for an honest and amusing movie. Charlie’s lack of social skills is hilarious and endearing. He enjoys riding the short bus to school and carrying around an attaché case. His strangeness makes you root for his character — even if the counseling he dispenses is (potentially) dangerous and (potentially) illegal.
For a teen movie, the characters are surprisingly well-written and each provides a different form of entertainment. Nash’s writing allows the viewer to sympathize with Charlie’s clueless and immature mother, his depressed principal, and his bully, while still garnering support for Charlie.
Anton Yelchin’s (Alpha Dog) childish drawl and spot-on accents make Charlie’s character. He delivers his lines perfectly, invoking emotions from opposite sides of the spectrum at the most appropriate times. He makes even the most ridiculous scenes (like running around the neighborhood in his underwear) believable.
Plus, there’s an added bonus for any Degrassi: The Next Generation fans — practically a quarter of the old cast is in the movie.
Overall Rating: A-