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The Wackness (2008)

December 9, 2009

5/10 Fitting Titles

Well, at least the soundtrack kicks ass.

The Wackness is about a teenager in 1994 New York City that spends his Summer dealing dope to raise money for college, hanging out with his aging shrink and paying for his sessions in dimebags, coping with his parents’ mounting money problems, and trying to get his shrink’s stepdaughter to go steady with him.

Cool idea for the most part, but unfortunately it doesn’t really work out as planned.

It’s the debut or sophomore effort by writer/director Jonathan Levine (couldn’t figure it out from his IMDB page) and therein lies the double-edged sword of this movie. As a director, Levine is pretty solid. He’s got a cool visual style that really brings out the feel of New York in the early ’90s back in a time when everyone was listening to B.I.G. and A Tribe Called Quest instead of Lady GaGa and Taylor Swift, and back before Giuliani started cleaning up the joint. Part of it is that I dig movies that serve as a kind of NYC period piece, but even so, it’s a pretty cool movie to just watch and take in. New York is sweet.

On the other hand, the script kinda sucks. You ever go to a movie and find yourself feeling like the only person in the theater not on crazy pills as half the room bursts out in laughter while you just sit there with a “What’s so funny?” look on your face? That’s how I felt during The Wackness and I don’t think it’s due to a crap sense of humor on my part either. The gags and the dialogue just try so hard to be funny and witty that it ends up feeling forced instead of natural. Man, I hate that feeling.

The other thing is that the plot is freakin’ all over the place. It seems like there are a dozen different relationships going on amongst the characters and we’re all supposed to have some invested interested in all of them. This ends up taking away from the main story lines that actually are interesting – the relationship between the teen and shrink and the relationship between the teen and his shrink’s stepdaughter. But alas, both of these end in a whimper, too.

Point is, script could have used more work, could have been more focused.

But the acting is pretty on-point. The almighty Ben Kingsley plays the shrink, Dr. Squires, and, needless to say, he’s good. I’ve already gone on my Ben Kingsley rant in my Sexy Beast review, not gonna belabor the point any further.

Our favorite drug-dealing teen, Luke Shapiro, is played here by Josh Peck (of Nickelodeon fame, for all you kiddies out there). The only other thing I’ve seen him in is this wild independent movie that came out in ’04 called Mean Creek (worth checking out) where he was great, and he’s pretty good here, too. He actually has a couple lines that are funny and he makes Shapiro into a pretty believable protagonist. Keep an eye out for Peck, kid could go places.

Method Man’s also in it, and who doesn’t like Method Man? And for some reason Mary-Kate Olsen is in it this as a dirty hippie named Union that somehow finds herself hooking up with Ben Kingsley in a phone booth after a night of binge drinking. That was weird.

But in the end, I wish I could say I liked this movie more than I did. Seemed like it would be right up my alley and I was pretty bummed out when it ended up being one of those movies I just kinda forgot about the minute I walked out of the theater. It’s got the potential to be better than it is, but it gets too caught up in its own muddled script to set itself apart. It looks pretty, the soundtrack is awesome, and the acting is good for the most part, but there’s just too much going on for The Wackness to come together.

Go watch Sexy Beast, then watch Mean Creek, then go listen to Ready to Die by Biggie instead. Five hours well spent if you ask me.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 9, 2009 4:03 pm

    I definitely could’ve done w/o the Olsen sister’s plotline. Pleasing to the eye though.

  2. December 12, 2009 12:37 pm

    I was one of those fools crackin’ up when Squires quote Biggie… “Bitches, I like ’em brainless, guns, I like ’em stainless – steel.”

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