Dir. Jon Poll Writ. Gustin Nash Star. Anton Yelchin, Robert Downy Jr., Kat Dennings, Tyler Hilton.
I suppose it’s unfair to solely judge Charlie Bartlett by comparison to Ferris Bueller. I don’t go to the Portland art museum and call paintings inferior to Goya or Delacroix. Still, Bueller has cornered the market on this fairly specific sub-genre of high school comedy, and the filmmakers had to know it. If I made a film about a young boy from a broken home befriending an alien, I’d be competing with E.T., right?
I liked Charlie from Charlie Bartlett, but I liked him less than Ferris Bueller. It was interesting to watch the filmmakers combat this likely universal sentiment. They didn’t try to take Bueller head on (an impossible feat, in my opinion), and they didn’t try to ride Bueller’s coattails for a few Box Office profits over a couple of weekends (not on the whole at least, I hope). Instead, they tried to carve a little niche for Bartlett in this high school sub-genre. Bartlett was like Bueller’s drug-dealing, less clever younger brother. I’m not so convinced the whole pharmacy angle separated Bartlett from Bueller nearly enough, but, hey, at least they tried.
I’ll give Bartlett this, I liked his sidekick better than Bueller’s. Though presented and developed in a much less sophisticated manner, I prefer Bartlett’s punk bully, Murphey, to Bueller’s neurotic Cameron. (Unfortunately, Bartlett’s girl doesn’t hold a candle to Bueller’s)
Robert Downy Jr. was okay, I guess. It was too sappy a character for me. “I’m Robert Downy Jr., and, guess what, my character is a mopey drunk with a heart of gold buried under a world of problems.” Yeah, yeah; blah, blah; etc, etc. He’s especially hard to like when you consider the ridiculous principle from Ferris Bueller. It turns out zero antics, self-destructive rage, and contemplative intoxicatedness isn’t that funny.
The only place I can really see anyone watching Charlie Bartlett is at a matinee. Not that it is not enjoyable, but when it leaves theaters and goes to DVD there is really no reason to watch Bartlett over Bueller.
P.S. They pretty much have the same movie posters: