Charlie Bartlett

Cover Art and Menus: 8/10
I thought this was a good cover, with Charlie relaxing (presumably on a therapist’s couch) with his arms behind his back, and the rest of the cast behind him in black and white, with various images mixed in. It works for this type of film, and it kind of reminds me of both Ferris Bueller’s Day Off cover, mixed with Juno. That is not necessarily a bad thing, seeing as how those films hit the same audience that Charlie Bartlett is aimed at.

The menus were also fun and good. There was a mix of video from the film in black and white, but colored like an Andy Warhol image, that played as the menu appeared. It was new and I thought it worked well for this movie.

Features: 2/10
I reviewed a screener copy, and some of the extras were disabled on parts of the DVD. Apparently the full release will include three commentaries, which include one with director John Poll and writer Gustin Nash, one with actors Anton Yelchin and Kat Dennings, and finally one with John Poll and editor Alan Baumgarten. I can’t imagine that people would want to sit through 3 audio commentaries for a film like this, but who knows. It seems like a bit much for this type of film.

Also included on my disk was a music video by the band Spiral Beach for the song “Voodoo” which is in the film. I have never heard of Spiral Beach, and when they were playing in the movie, I thought they were a high school band put together for the movie, but I am apparently wrong.

The full release is going to have both full screen and widescreen options available on different sides of the DVD, as well as a short “Restroom Confessionals” where the actors confess to Charlie in the boy’s restroom, as in the film. There will also apparently be some deleted scenes included on the full release of Charlie Bartlett, but again, my screener DVD only had some of the extras.

The Movie: 6/10
Charlie Bartlett is one of those films that looks really funny in the previews, and then when you get into the thick of the film, it’s not really that funny. I liked this movie, and I really liked the acting, but I just didn’t think that the story was right. It is like the film couldn’t decide whether to be funny or serious, and being stuck half-way in between the two got a bit old.

Charlie (Anton Yelchin) is a teen who comes from money. He is kicked out of just about every prep school around, and ends up being forced to go to public school, where he sticks out as much as any person possible could. He shows up for his first day riding the short bus, and wearing a blazer and a tie, as he apparently has no idea that public schools are different than prestigious prep schools. (We are meant to believe that a guy who is popular at prep school for making fake ID’s somehow isn’t hip enough to understand that public school is different.)

Upon showing up at his new school, Charlie basically gets his ass kicked, and ends up trying to do what everyone in high school is trying to do – get popular. Charlie is soon seeing the family therapist who prescribes various drugs for Charlie to take, with funny results. Charlie ends up befriending the bully, who joins in a venture whereby Charlie meets with kids in the boy’s bathroom, talks to them to find out their problems, and then Murphy, the bully, deals out the various medications that Charlie has procured though seeing various therapists. Soon Charlie is the most popular guy in school, and he ends up falling for Susan (Kat Dennings) who just so happens to be the principal’s daughter. The principal (Robert Downey Jr.) is an only dad, who drinks too much, and is left to deal with a school that has drastically changed sine the arrival of Charlie Bartlett. He also is left to deal with the fact that his only daughter is hanging out with Charlie, a fact that sends him over the edge.

The overall message of Charlie Bartlett seems to be one that has been presented in numerous other teen movies – find your own voice. It is a good message, but it just seems to flounder a bit in this movie. The acting was really very good, from Anton Yelchin’s portrayal of the smug, approval seeking Charlie, to Kat Denning’s confident, wise for her age Susan character. The inclusion of Robert Downey Jr. to the cast is almost instant validation for the film, and his acting is again spot on. Downey just seems to be each character that he tackles, and here he just seems to encapsulate the depressed, alcoholic principal who has trouble dealing with his situation in life. Hope Davis is also really good as Charlie’s detached mother, who is just slightly off, as are most of the characters.

Overall Charlie Bartlett was a good, lighthearted movie. I enjoyed the acting, but the story was just a bit off for me. Some of the scenes were really quite funny, but overall I just felt as if the actors were doing there best with a kind of ho-hum story.

Video & Audio: 4/10
I am not sure if my screener copy is of the same quality that the full release will be, but there was a bit of grain and a slight lack of detail. Then again, this was a screener, so if the full release is anything like Fox’s normal releases, the transfer will be great.

The audio was pretty good throughout the film. This is a dialogue driven movie, and the mix was well done throughout.

Value: 4/10
I am not sure that this is a film for everyone. It is good, in a teen angst type of way. It made me think of Rushmore, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and to some extent Election and Juno. Charlie Bartlett is not as good as any of those, and I didn’t love Juno. I would recommend this as a rental only if you are a big fan of those movies, and have some spare time. I really thought the acting was pretty good, but the overall story was just kind of a let down. Charlie Bartlett is a decent movie, but not great.

Overall Score 6/10