I feel like Charlie Bartlett should be a great movie. It's about all the right things: overmedicated kids, overprotective authority, overcoddling parents, overprotective parents, real bullies and more. It just does everything so averagely I just couldn't get into it.
Review: Charlie Bartlett
Charlie Bartlett (Anton Yelchin) gets expelled from prep school for making fake IDs. He doesn't fit in at public school until he starts selling his Ritalin, and later every other drug for every symptom he can fake. He becomes a school hero rebelling against authority.
Perhaps it's that the film starts out with the most generic idea ever. Charlie has a rock star fantasy. Really? A rock star fantasy? That's the best they could come up with. The transition from prep to public school is cute but it's just the same stereotypes: The cool kids, the punks, the dumb guy.
The perspective on psychiatry is valid. Sloppy diagnoses do take place. Now, it doesn't mean the whole field of Pschiatry is fraudulent. Every field has bad practitioners. We don't abolish surgeons because of the one guy who left a scalpel in an intestine. So the concept of manipulating this field is noble. It's just they play it like the absolutely typical drug movie.
Ritalin binges are just like speed montages. They run around in their underwear and play piano fast, like Trainspotting without the surreal metaphors. An empty pool is the best they can come up with. Even seeing young bouncing boobies doesn't make these clichés more palatable. It may be a fun ride for kids, but to me it's really loud and obtrusive with all the music and parties.
The idea of a mature, smart kid is good. Charlie could be a Ferris Bueller type but he's too confrontational. Ferris never got anyone else in trouble. Rooney did it to himself, but Ferris wouldn't hurt anyone in his schemes. Maybe it's more like a Pump Up the Volume for the medicated generation.
It's not unwatchable, it's just trying too hard and not really offering anything. As an indie film, Charlie Bartlett is neither an alternative to nor a comparable competitor to Hollywood.