Jan 09

My 10 Worst Films Of 2008: 10: Charlie Bartlett

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Another year, another list of rubbish films. The same caveats as last year apply, in as much as while I am inexorably drawn to some very bad films, I do dodge a number of them. Mainly because I am able to recognise that there is nothing to redeem say, Meet The Spartans or Disaster Movie which I don’t doubt are really the worst films of last year by a country mile. And having lost all patience with M.Night Shyalaman, I did not happen to see The Happening (fear not fans of Mark Whalberg, he still turns up). And as last year, let me tell you what the cut off point is at the eleventh worst film: The Love Guru. Which possibly survived because I have already slagged it off.

To get a feel for this list, which for suspense purposes will be released with one film per day (or so) here is last years lists: 10-6 and 5-1.

Charlie Slappable BartlettAnd so to number ten. Charlie Bartlett. Not so much the name of a film as an insurance salesman, or in this case the most slappable male kid in film last year (we have a slappable girl on the way). Look at that smug face in the poster, now imagine in a suit which he wears for fifty percent of the film. Feel free to slap your monitor. On TV last Saturday night was a terrific little indie movie from four years ago called Tadpole (look it was my number 11 film from 2003). A cheap character piece about a smart, privileged New York kid from the Upper West Side and the abject embarrassment of his stumbles into sexual awareness (it helps that its Bebe Neuwirth he stumbles into). Anyway, Charlie Bartlett has a fair few similarities to Tadpole, and Rushmore if you will. A precocious kid expelled from a private school turns up at a public school and starts dealing soft drugs. The ones his own psychiatrist father doles out to him. Its Ferris Bueller with a shit script, its One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest without incarceration, it is Rosemary’s Baby without Rosemary or a Baby (but a definite sense of hellish doom about it).

Charlie Bartlett is an insufferably smug movie which assumes a precocious kid will be entertaining, rather that the seven shades of irritating that precocity brings with it. Robert Downey Jr pops up as the anti-drugs headmaster of the school in a blatant case of stunt casting (which backfired because the producers clearly had not got the memo that he is back to being a proper actor again). Downey is about the only interesting thing in the film, and briefly when he is on his own, its almost watchable. But then the slappable lead turns up again and you just want to unleash a whole battalion of US Marines against a Charlie they might have some success against.


  1. 1
    Mark M on 12 Jan 2009 #

    While it is true that Downey has his career back, an awful lot of his better roles this decade have drawn fairly directly on the screw-up legend: Wonder Boys, A Scanner Darkly, Zodiac, Iron Man… Tropic Thunder being the big exception. I’d say it is probably only starting now – therefore after this lamentable looking film was made (glad I didn’t see it) – that anyone can cast with assuming that the audience is going by thinking “Hey, it’s top Tinseltown junkie Bob Downey Jr!”.

  2. 2
    pete on 12 Jan 2009 #

    I guess I personally rehabilitated him with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (and dehabilitated top porker Val Kilmer in the same sweep). Its probably a testament to his swagger as a genius inventor tycoon in Iron Man that the pre-supposed genius in the casting did trade on a history of substance abuse. Point taken!

  3. 3
    Mark M on 13 Jan 2009 #

    Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a blinder, and underappreciated.
    Obviously, my final sentence in #1 should read “…that anyone can cast him without assuming the audience is thinking…” (I’m not subbing this month, and therefore out of proofing shape. Or something).

  4. 4
    Lennie on 23 Jan 2009 #

    The Happening. THE HAPPENING!!!

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