Written by Senora Bicho
Charlie Barlett is the story of a troubled high school senior. This in itself is not very original, what is novel about the film is that this senior, in his effort to fit in and achieve the popularity every teen seeks, becomes the school psychiatrist working out of the boy’s restroom. While the story contains some interesting concepts, there is never a strong connection with the characters and the film relies too heavily on stereotypes and overly dramatic moments.
The film opens with Charlie Bartlett (Anton Yelchin) getting expelled from a private school for selling driver’s licenses to the student body. Charlie’s mom (Hope Davis) is unable to buy him out of his troubles and since he has been expelled from a number of prestigious private schools, Charlie must now attend public school. His first day goes as expected: he doesn’t fit it and gets beat up by the resident punk. In an attempt to determine whether or not Charlie has attention deficit disorder, his psychiatrist prescribes Ritalin. After a bad reaction to the drug, Charlie attempts to befriend the punk by making him his business partner in selling the rest of the pills to the student body. This brings him instant popularity and in an effort to continue his bout of fame, he begins conducting therapy sessions and prescribes drugs that are easily obtained by duping various real psychiatrists.
While helping to solve the student’s problems, Charlie falls for the principal’s daughter, Susan (Kat Dennings), gains the popularity he so deeply desired, and learns some important lessons along the way. Of course, the punk turns out to have a heart of gold, the head of the cheerleaders only wants a guy to take her out on a real date, and the captain of football team yearns to be an artist. No surprise, everything magically works out in the end for all involved and everyone is much better off after Charlie’s meddling. While there are certain elements of the film that are thought provoking, overall it is predictable and heavy-handed.
What is most disappointing about the film is the underutilization of some great actors. Robert Downey Jr. does the best he can, with a weak script and poor dialogue, as the high school principal with an alcohol problem; his scenes are the only somewhat bright moments of the picture. Hope Davis is also good as the mom struggling to help her son while trying to deal with her own problems but her character is never fully developed and she comes off at times as just plain crazy.
The special features do not warrant much discussion. There is a commentary track with the director Jon Poll, Yelchin, and Dennings. This is Poll’s directorial debut; his experience is in film editing which is questionable after watching the film. A music video for “Voodoo” by Spiral Beach is also included.
If you are looking for a good film about teenage angst this isn’t it, instead of wasting 90 minutes on this unforgettable mess go with a classic instead, such as The Breakfast Club.