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Charlie Bartlett: A Film about Fictional Teenagers

Updated on July 30, 2009

Netflix is by far one of the greatest modern marvels I’m currently participating in. Not only can you rent new releases but you can also add movies to the queue from days past and feel like they are still pretty new. Well, I just like opening my mail box to find new Netflix presents in there every three to four days.

Anyway, my latest Netflix rental was the film Charlie Bartlett. I can’t quite remember why this movie ended up on my Netflix queue, it’s not really the type of movie I’m interested in usually and it’s definitely not the type of movie my girlfriend likes. Charlie Bartlett is your average teenage drama movie about young kids in high school dealing with your every day teenage troubles; only this one gives it a little bit of a twist.

Charlie Bartlett
Charlie Bartlett

The Bored Rich Kid

Charlie Bartlett has been thrown out of all the private schools he’s been enrolled in. He’s this super rich kid with a naughty Daddy who landed himself in prison for tax evasion. Whoops that might have been a spoiler. Sorry for no warning but I think you’ll forgive me. He gets expelled from these schools because he’s smart enough to come up with some criminal genius style schemes that get everyone to like him. Popularity is numero uno in Mr. Bartlett’s world, sound familiar?

He just wants to fit in but the character fits in just about everywhere. When he starts going to public school he has to ride the short bus so he won’t be known as the “rich kid.” So he dresses like a big geek and befriends all of the special Ed’s. (Oh yeah, like that Stephen Lynch reference?) Then when he gets beat up a bunch of times by some bad ass drug dealers he decides that rather than standing up for himself with his physical strength, he’ll outsmart the brutes. He decides to become a drug dealer… only a much better drug dealer… a pharmaceutical drug dealer. Charlie Bartlett becomes a psychiatrist.

Stereotypes Abound: No Character Spared

That’s the premise of the film and on the surface of it is looks pretty good. Sadly, even though it has a few moments where it can stand out as unique it doesn’t escape the melodrama that is teenage life. High school stereotypes run rampant in this film.

First there’s Charlie. He’s the bored intelligent rich kid with nothing better to do than to get into some trouble. Then there’s his “business partner” drug dealer who’s poor and abused by his father so he lashes out on his peers. Then you’ve got the socially inept depressed kid who attempts suicide to move the plot forward but still manages to participate in enough extra curriculars to write a play. The Principal’s daughter and lead female role has Daddy issues of course but for some strange reason the adults tend to have the most whacked out behavior of them all.

Robert Downey Jr. as the Principal
Robert Downey Jr. as the Principal

Make Your Own Decision: Buy the Movie

The Principal and the Drunk

Robert Downey Jr. plays the Principal and his character jumps all over the place. Maybe it’s just because they didn’t give him enough reason to suck up to the Super Attendant Chalmer’s character to make it believable that he would callously squelch a protest and then coach Charlie in the ways of self-improvement but this guy just comes across as bipolar.

I can kind of see where they were going for the “gradually decays into madness and then is redeemed” sort of thing with the Principal’s spastic mood swings but he really didn’t need to knock all of those books out of the corner bookcase in his home office and he really should have kept his revolver in one of the gun safes.

Come on, no self respecting Principal is going to get drunk and fire round after round into his pool just because his daughter is dating a bad boy and he lost his job. At least, by the way he was mentoring and reacting to Charlie, this Principal seemed smarter than that.

All in All: Meh...

Overall the film wasn’t that bad I guess. It sure as hell wasn’t as awful as Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince but it wasn’t really that good either. The acting was solid but the characters were too stereotyped to be believable and some of the transformations they took really didn’t make much sense to me. You shouldn’t be opposed to getting this one on Netflix if you’re bored one day but it might be better saved for the Instant Watch laptop screen.

Charlie Bartlett Trailer

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