Ordinarily when movies are “pushed back,” one usually could expect the worst – except in this case. Young Anton Yelchin channels his inner “Ferris Bueller” in the delightful and funny, high school film, “Charlie Bartlett.”
After getting kicked out of his umpteenth private school, spoiled, rich Charlie Bartlett (Yelchin) is forced to attend a public school. Not your typical high school student, Bartlett seems as if he’s bored with studies and acts out merely to keep himself amused. With a psychiatrist on call, who prescribes him whatever medication he desires, Bartlett is a kid in search of a life-changing adventure.
Boy does get one when he arrives at his new school. In quick order, Bartlett is beatdown by the school bully, the sadistic Murphy (Tyler Hilton) only to befriend him in his latest high school scam. Noticing that many of his classmates are having trouble coping with a myriad of problems, Bartlett and his new friend Murphy open up a psychiatrist’s office – in the boy’s bathroom. With Bartlett in one stall and his “patients” in another, he diagnosis their problem, takes their symptoms and acts them out with his real doc and gives the kids the meds prescribed for treatment.
But his “extracurricular” lunch-time activities capture the attention of Principal Gardner (Robert Downey, Jr.), who is trying to figure out why all of his students are talking about “Charlie Bartlett.” When his daughter, Susan (Kat Dennings) catches Bartlett’s “teen spirit,” the concerned Gardner seeks to crack the mystique of the popular student.
While not as witty as the Oscar-nominated, “Juno,” “Charlie Bartlett” has its charms. His character shares the same blood lines as “Risky Business'” Tom Cruise or Matthew Broderick from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” Why the film was pushed from its original early-August release to now is unclear, but Yelchin’s understated, quirky performance makes this film a joy to watch. He gives a winning performance in this sly, witty and authentic look at the angst that high-school kids harbor as they make the transition from from teenagers to young adults.