Starring: Anton Yelchin, Kat Dennings, Robert Downey Jr.
Director: Jon Poll
Running Time: 97 mins
Charlie Bartlett is an American film about a rebellious teenager from a rich family who joins a new school, and, in order to get people speaking to him, he sets up shop as the school’s unofficial student psychiatrist.
‘Inspiring’ teen movies are hard to do. So often, these sorts of films that try to go for an uplifting message by using a rebellious, more mature teenage main character walk a thin line between a genuinely effective movie and one that’s just sappy. Unfortunately, Charlie Bartlett falls victim to the latter. Despite a couple of interesting moments and a decent performance by Robert Downey Jr., this was a really irritating film that only worsened by presenting a supposedly inspiring story.
But before I talk about all those issues, I just want to mention that there are some good moments in this film. For one, in the final act, when the drama takes over from the comedy, it gets slightly interesting. I wasn’t rooting for the main character, which we’ll get into in a second, but there were a few moments where I was impressed by the drama.
Also, Robert Downey Jr.’s performance as the school headmaster here is pretty good too. He manages to impress with a good dramatic and comedic range across the film, and, despite being the opposer to Charlie Bartlett for most of the film, he makes his character understandable and far more interesting than anyone else.
Apart from that, however, there’s not too much about this film to really enjoy. The biggest issue by far is in the main character of Charlie Bartlett. I’m not knocking Anton Yelchin’s performance, but Bartlett doesn’t come across as the likeable and intelligent rebel that the film so badly wants him to be.
He goes around doing all of these supposedly clever and cool things to make friends and to share a message about being independent, but he always comes across as an arrogant, precocious and superbly annoying teenager, which meant it was impossible for me to support him when he faced opposition from those who wanted to suppress his free spirit.
Also, the comedy here is pretty average. Yes, it’s one of those comedy-drama films where the drama and message (a painfully cheesy one, might I add) is the main focus, however you should still expect a few decent laughs going into this. But in the end, there are very few. Arguably hampered by the fact that it is so annoying, there’s little to laugh at here, along with little to really interest you, so, despite a few good points, I wasn’t a fan of Charlie Bartlett, and that’s why it gets a 6.3 from me.