Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Wackness

The Wackness presents itself as a new indie-hip dramedy with a cool soundtrack, but the truth is, The Wackness has no idea what kind of film it wants to be.

Writer and director Jonathan Levine gives us a story of a loner stoner high school graduate who deals weed to people out of the beat-up ice cream cart he pushes around. Luke (Josh Peck) is starting to realize that his only popularity comes from his dealing. In fact, he doesn’t have a single friend to count on. In comes his shrink, Dr. Squires (a zany Ben Kingsley) who trades his psycho-analytical services for Luke’s latest product.

Luke and Squires form an offbeat relationship that has them wandering the streets, getting high, making out with hippies, getting arrested, and doing it all over again. This is where The Wackness falters. The movie borrows from several, better, films that highlight a general theme. Luke walks around, aimless of life and authority (Kids), Luke and his shrink form unconventional relationship (Good Will Hunting), Luke falls for shrink’s stepdaughter, they form tender, romantic relationship (Say Anything-ish), and so on.

I enjoyed some aspects of The Wackness, such as the performances. Peck, a former Nickelodeon star, branches out from his tween roots and Kingsley has moments that nearly reach his full talent. But it’s Olivia Thirlby, as Luke’s love interest, that steals the show. You know Thirlby from Juno (as the wise-ass best friend), but this is the best work she’s done. Her Stephanie is a quick-witted, stress-wise chick who loves the wild life. Thirlby actually grew up in New York City, so it comes as no surprise that she feels like the most genuine presence in the film.

The Wackness is set in 1994 for no other reason that I can see, than for Levine to score his film with old-school rap music. Another film, 8 Mile, used this setting technique in a far more effective way. In fact, in one scene from The Wackness, Luke goes to get more product from his Jamaican hookup, played by real-life rapper Method Man. After they finish their business, the Jamaican goes over to a boom box and turns up the song. He starts telling Luke how good this artist is, how fresh the sound will become. The song is by, are you ready… Method Man. So what we have is a character, played by Method Man, listening to a musician, himself, and telling another character how good it is. This is a cheap trick that makes The Wackness well… whack. C-
Correction, dated 7/09.
It has come to my attention that "the music in the background (of my troubled scene) was Biggie's, not Method Man's. Meth's album didnt come out until 1995. He was on the track but it wasn't his song."

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