Wackness, The
Entertainment: +1
Acceptability: -4

Josh Peck, Ben Kingsley, Olivia Thirlby, Mary-Kate Olsen. Youth comedy/drama. Written & directed by Jonathan Levine. Opens 7/3/08 in limited release.

FILM SYNOPSIS: A graduating high schooler sells pot on the side and trades it for treatment from his unorthodox psychologist. His parents argue, his father in serious financial trouble and hes falling for his doctors stepdaughter.

PREVIEW REVIEW: Often we can learn by viewing films that spotlight the missteps of others, but this picture prefers being quirky to being profound. And its always a downer to view people who deaden themselves with drugs in an effort to feel something. This is a film that wants to seriously look at the importance of relationships and communicating with others, but whatever spiritual profundity these characters seek, they do it outside of biblical precepts.

(The nutty doctor has named the family dog Jesus Christ. Mr. Levine, the writer/director, is Jewish and perhaps unaware that this joke borders on the blasphemous, if not merely being offensive. Though Im not Jewish, I know what words and deeds would offend my Jewish brothers and sisters. How come this sensitivity is so often a one-way respect in Hollywood?)

The movie is peppered with the f-word, theres no downfall for the drug dealer (the filmmaker obviously believes its okay to sell pot, despite the fact that its against the law), its graphic in its depiction of underage drinking and sexuality, and whatever moral is to be siphoned from the narrative, it is one that forsakes the existence of a Creator. Yes, many teens do these things, but no consequences are shown in the film. Whatever the lesson, its lacking, like a cake with no flour.

Mary-Kate Olsen plays a small role as a stoner, a free spirit who is seen having sex in public with an older man. Oh, what a young actress is willing to do in order to break free of type casting.

DVD Alternatives:

The Chorus. This French film (with subtitles sorry bout that) is an emotional, music-filled tale about how a very humble mans simple dreams changed the future for a forgotten group of children.


Dancer, Texas Pop. 81. This engaging comic drama from 1998 concerns four graduating high school chums set to leave their teeny, tiny town due to a vow they made in grade school. Good technical aspects, fine performances by unknown cast, and it is a pleasure to see a film about teens without the usual crudity, exploitation and profane language. PG (a few mild expletives & 1 obscenity, but no misuse of Gods name; muted sexual innuendo as a neer-do-well father brings home a date, but no sex scenes). Hard to find, worth it.


Tsotsi (2006) traces six days in the life of a young gang leader who steals a womans car unaware, in his panic, that her baby is in the back seat. A gritty contemporary portrait of ghetto life set amidst the sprawling Johannesburg townships, this affecting story is ultimately a redemptive tale of hope and the triumph of love over rage. Its a parable, a story about the seeking and finding of redemption. Though this young thug is full of rage and insecurity, enough to beat up an ally, threaten an old man in a wheelchair and shoot a hijack victim, he is mysteriously moved by this infant. And the longer he is around the baby, the more he opens up his heart. He even comes to an awareness of the need for forgiveness and salvation. I wont give the ending away, but the last shot is a symbolic illustration of a man surrendering his life. We know as we leave the theater that a miraculous change has occurred and we realize on the drive home that indeed, A child shall lead them. Caution: Its replete with violent imagery and mood, plus around 30 harsh curse words. But keep in mind; different audience members have different sensibilities. While some wont be reached by the films message due to the objectionables, there are those who will relate to the harsh realities portrayed and see past the brutality. As for those who dont have to struggle with poverty, ignorance and daily danger, well, maybe it will remind them to be compassionate and patient. It helped me in that area.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics

Crude Language: Several crude sexual terms; obscene gesture; women are referred to as bitches.
Obscene Language: Nearly 80, mostly the f- and s-words before I stopped counting; a couple of rap songs contain abusive language.
Profanity: Well, they named the dog Jesus Christ; Gods name is profanes twice.
Violence: A man threatens to commit suicide.
Sexual Intercourse: Several graphic sexual situations, one with the doctor and what appears to be an underage girl; teen sex.
Nudity: Male backside nudity.
Homosexual Conduct: None
Sexually Suggestive Action/Dialog: None
Drug Abuse: Drugs throughout; the lead sells pot with little regard for his customers; everyone smokes teens & adults everyone drinks teens & adults.
Other: None
Running Time: 95 minutes
Intended Audience: Older teens and Adults

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