A good prescription

Charlie Bartlett

Charlie Bartlett
Starring Anton Yelchin, Hope Davis and Robert Downey Jr. Directed by Jon Poll. Tinseltown. Rated R.
Rated 3.0

Charlie Bartlett is one unhappy rich kid.

His mother is a loopy drunk, and he has a psychologist on call to help him navigate the choppy waters of teenage-hood. After getting kicked out of a string of private schools, the latest for running a fake identification mill, the poor little rich kid lands in the concrete jungles. All the standard cliques are on hand, but his snappy threads and fish-out-of-water mouth immediately get Charlie in hot water.

After undergoing the obligatory new-kid hazing, our hero makes a new name for himself and wins friends by acting as a bathroom psychiatrist, circumventing procedure and the law to prescribe his new patients their meds. In any other scenario he’d be a pusher hooking up his junkies; but this almost comes across as funded by Big Pharma until it veers into After School Special territory.

Actually, the movie is mostly all good, albeit uneven. It’s a clever script well-played, with enough loopy turns to keep things fresh. On the downside, a headrest on the theater seat would be handy to avoid whiplash as the tone shifts from absurdist slapstick to pathos. And the seasoned supporting cast (including Hope Davis as his mother and Robert Downey Jr. as his new principal who shares a common interest with Charlie’s mother) gives lead Anton Yelchin a solid backbone to work with.

As high school comedies go, Charlie Bartlett is entertaining enough to keep from cutting class. Sort of an underachiever Rushmore.