You have Ferris Bueller, and Van Wilder, and now we have Charlie Bartlett (Anton Yelchin). But unlike the other two high school dudes with natural chemistry, Bartlett got to work hard at it, stemmed from his personal issues which manifest itself as a want to get himself catapulted to the top of the popularity charts. Being from a rich household, he finds himself like a fish out of water in a public school after being thrown out of just about every private school out there for his shenanigans.
And of course, things don't get any better after a disastrous day at school with the school bully, and giving the first wrong impressions to Principal Gardner (Robert Downey Jr), whom he has to convince later when Bartlett begins to develop affections for Gardner's daughter and fellow schoolmate Susan (Kat Dennings). So beings a power struggle of sorts within the school compound, and for the girl both care about.
Some have billed Charlie Bartlett as a Juno follow up, but I would like to beg to differ. Sure, they're both dealing with high school kids who fast talks, but when compared to Juno, Charlie Bartlett would probably get his butt kicked real hard. Not to say that Charlie Bartlett is a bad film, but Juno offered a lot more pizzazz, attitude and charm that Bartlett seemed to be lacking. However, there are still enjoyable moments with Bartlett that most school kids who aim to be Mr or Ms Popular, would probably identify with.
And the scenes where Charlie becomes Agony Uncle and sets up shop dispensing useful advice, as well as controlled drugs, take the cake in the movie, as he discovers his niche market, and milked them for all it's worth. Anton Yelchin has this very sly demeanour and offers much of a devilish attitude from beneath that wimpy surface, though I can't really say that as Charlie Bartlett it will be his defining role. I look forward to his involvement as Chekov in JJ Abrams' upcoming reboot of the Star Trek movie though.
The soundtrack is unlikely to be memorable (for a teen movie! The Horror!) though one can take consolation with Hope Davis' portrayal as Charlie's neurotic mother Marilyn, which did seem like a distant cousin to Annette Benning's role in Running With Scissors. And Robert Downey Jr with a bottle in hand did seem like reliving his past on screen, and I'd bet his Tony Stark in Iron Man, would also seem like a stroll down memory lane for him too. The best parts of the story for his Principal Gardner of course involves his one to one challenges with Bartlett, as do any school principal with their school's #1 rascal, so there's nothing new though to offer there.
I had expected a lot from Charlie Bartlett, and we all know what expectations can do, especially when the movie doesn't seem to hit the mark set. Enjoyable, but not the greatest we've seen in the shenanigans department.