Following the suggestion from Serving Older Teens (Anderson, 2003), I decided to include a few movies suggested by real live teenagers. Charlie Bartlett is from the list of a teen who also included Star Wars (a very enthusiastic recommendation), Wall-E, and Princess Mononoke. I chose to watch it for the database because it was the only one I hadn’t seen, and because it was a realistic comedy.
Director: Jon Poll
Writer: Gustin Nash
Actors Include: Anton Yelchin, Robert Downey Jr., Hope Davis, Kat Dennings, Tyler Hilton
Producers: David Permut, Barron Kidd, Jay Roach, Sidney Kimmel
Copyright Date: 2007
Teaser: Charlie Bartlett has been kicked out of so many private schools that the only choice his mother has left is to enroll him in public high school. Charlie seems unlikely to fit in, until he realizes his psychologist connections will help him fill a gap in the students’ lives.
Plot Summary: Charlie Bartlett arrives at a public high school wearing a blazer and carrying an attache case. After being kicked out of a long string of private schools, his pill-befuddled mother hopes that this time will be different. Charlie is cheerful and outgoing, but his self assurance wins him few friends until he teams up with the school bully. Charlie’s experience with psychologists enables him to provide something the students are looking for.
Critical Evaluation: A charming high school rebel, Charlie Bartlett endears himself to viewers almost at first sight. Surrounded by characters who misunderstand themselves and each other, Charlie’s quiet self assurance and generosity draws them out. The movie is an interesting examination of despair and alienation. Charlie listens and encourages people to express themselves, while dealing with his own lack of support at home.
Curriculum Ties: Charlie Bartlett might be an effective tool for teen drug abuse prevention programs. Many drug movies are very graphic; Charlie Bartlett is a comedy with little graphic content which examines both the reasons why people take drugs and the reasons to stay off them. It is also unusual in that the drugs are prescription rather than the street drugs (which are the focus of many programs). Unfortunately the R rating may prevent teachers from showing it in their classrooms.
Setting: American High School
Challenge Issues: Although Charlie Bartlett is on the surface about a drug dealing high school student, by the end of the movie Charlie is encouraging sobriety and constructive self expression. Spoiling the plot for concerned parents may show them that Charlie Bartlett will actually help teens stay off the drugs by examining some of the deeper issues and consequences rather than through graphic shock and scare tactics.
About the Director: Charlie Bartlett is Jon Poll’s directorial debut, but he is no stranger to Hollywood. Poll worked as an editor for many projects including Meet the Fockers, Austin Powers in Goldmember, and Death to Smoochy. He also recently produced Sacha Baron Cohen’s Bruno. (More details at http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0689343/)
About the Writer: Charlie Bartlett is Gustin Nash’s first movie, although it was his tenth attempt at getting a script produced. His next project will be an adaptation of C.D. Payne’s Youth in Revolt (Davis, 2008, retrieved August 7th, 2009 from http://www.cinematical.com/2008/02/20/the-write-stuff-interview-with-charlie-bartlett-screenwriter/).