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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
15
Cast
Anton Yelchin
kat dennings
Robert Downey Jr.
Hope Davis.
Directors
Gustin Nash.
Screenwriters
Running Time
96 minutes

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Charlie Bartlett
He makes Ferris Bueller look like the school bully


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Plot
Expelled from private school, genial misfit Charlie (Yelchin) is placed in the public system. His background sets him apart until he finds a bond with the other kids - including the disillusioned headmaster’s (Downey Jr.) daughter - in dysfunction. Soon, he’s the school’s unofficial pharmacist.


Review
Charlie Bartlett
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Charlie Bartlett can’t have been an easy pitch. Like the character, the movie has its work cut out: how to make a (very) rich kid sympathetic and likeable? It’s a challenge first-time filmmaker Jon Poll has struggled hard to overcome, but, at some stage, he either gave up or had the rug pulled from under him.

Initial inroads into Charlie’s plight are good. Despite his life of privilege, the boy doesn’t have the things he really wants - the things every teenager wants - security and popularity. He (quite literally) dreams of standing before crowds of adoring peers, and operates crafty, yet daft, schemes to win their approval - schemes which have resulted in his systematic expulsion from every private school in the area.

After we’re introduced to his eccentric mother - Hope Davis in a role that could have gone spectacularly wrong, but becomes a marvel of subtle comedy in her capable hands – Charlie heads for state school, blazered and clutching an attaché case: obviously gearing up to have the shit kicked out of him. So far, so predictable. It's when Charlie uses his resourcefulness to deftly take control of his situation that things swiftly pick up.

Charlie Bartlett is at its most interesting when it nudges the boundaries of good behaviour; measuring Charlie’s desire for acceptance against the dangers of, say, selling prescription drugs to his classmates. Of course, your enjoyment of these scenes may well depend on your politics, but there’s no denying that watching a toff have an adverse reaction to a dose of Ritalin is highly amusing.

It’s unfortunate that Poll doesn’t push his characters further into such promising territory. The good work unravels when conflicts begin to be resolved by contrived, convenient screenwriting; while the always reliable Robert Downey Jr. is criminally wasted, waiting for a big scene that never arrives. A horrible sense of ’happy ending syndrome’ kicks in, and with it any hopes of Poll matching the likes of Wes Anderson quickly evaporate. It means that a good film falls short - considerably, in the end - of greatness. There are plenty of good qualities in Charlie; it just needed to apply itself a little more.


Verdict
After a strong start, the story ceases to challenge itself and its characters, offering easy options and a Prozac-soft finish.


Reviewed by Sam Toy

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Charlie Bartlett
Empire Star Rating

Charlie Bartlett

A new teen movie for a new generation. Great work by Yelchin and Downey. Downey has grown so much it's scary. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lynnshep at 00:39, 03 July 2008 | Report This Post


Charlie Bartlett

A new teen movie for a new generation. Great work by Yelchin and Downey. Downey has grown so much it's scary. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lynnshep at 00:39, 03 July 2008 | Report This Post


2 star film

with a 5 star performance from Anton Yelchin. The kid's a legend. He should just play the piano for humour as a career ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by daithi baru at 10:26, 24 May 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Charlie

I enjoyed it. Sure, the ending is a bit trite but you couldn't really end it with him getting expelled and sent to prison could you? It would be like ending Ferris Bueller with him getting his comeuppance.   I thought Anton Yelchin was a real talent and i'm looking forward to him 'seeking new enterprises' as Chekov in Star Trek and I now actually think he might be rather good as a young Kyle Reese in the new Terminator film. Downey Jr once again channelled his drink/drug... More

Posted by Timon at 09:25, 21 May 2008 | Report This Post


Charlie

Charlie Bartlett is a best of John Hughes, crossed with Rushmore. When it works it;s funny and invokes feelings of nostalgia in people of a certain age; when it doesn;t, its second-hand and doesnt ring true. just when the film seems like its going to strap on a pair, it chickens out and retreats into the corner for a good cower. Downey Jnr. Is fun but there;s no reason for him to be there and, if I was to hazard a guess, the principal role was very much a secondary character until Downey Jnr.... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by moviemaniac2 at 11:24, 19 May 2008 | Report This Post


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