Release date: July 3, 2008
Cast: Sir Ben Kingsley, Josh Peck, Olivia Thirlby,
Mary-Kate Olsen, Method Man, Aaron Yoo
Remember the days of 60-minute cassette tapes, young summer
love and radio DJs that actually spun records like Biz Markies infamous Just
a Friend or Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Princes Summertime?
The Wackness will
make you go back; back in time to 1994, New York City and teenage problems that
seemed like weights of the world.
The plot surrounds seemingly unimportant white people in an
overpopulated urban city, its the summer that changed my life genre that we,
both young and old, can relate to.
The Wackness stars
Josh Peck, most famous for the Nickelodeon series Drake and Josh, as recent high school
graduate Luke Shapiro.
Hes the local weed man on his Upper
East Side block and to most of his classmates. Although hes sold to them for
most of their high school years, hes never really made a connection with
anyone, and he feels left out and depressed.
While making a chronic run, he
realizes that a graduation party is ensuing that he was never invited. Hes got no friends, no girl to call his own,
dysfunctional parents constantly at each others throats – and his days are
spent daydreaming about unattainable girls and classic 90s Hip-Hop.
Everything changes this particular summer, when he forms an
unfamiliar bond with his just as depressed physiatrist, Dr. Jeffrey Squires, portrayed by Ben Kingsley. The doctor is also
an outcast and druggie, who ultimately exchanges weed for therapy. During these therapy/smoke out sessions,
Luke and Dr. Squires start to open up, revealing some of the most pivotal
dialogues and riveting discoveries of a pre-millennium teenager and seasoned
The Wackness is
skillfully written and amateur directed by independent filmmaker Jonathan
Levine, who came away with the coveted Audience Favorite award at this years
prestigious Sundance film festival. What Levine lacks in direction, he more
than makes up for in character development and creating the 1994 scenario at
the height of New York Hip Hop, when Tribe Called Quest and Notorious B.I.G.
Levine allows the audience to reminisce over a time when
opposite sex crushes were priority and parents just didnt understand. Of
course, in the midst of Lukes awakenings, he falls for the alluring Stephanie (Olivia Thirlby) who just happens to be
Dr. Squires step-daughter. Meanwhile, Dr. Squires unwittingly encourages Luke
to go after his dream girl and by all means, get laid.
For most of the movie, Dr. Squires dispenses questionable
advice, and is smoked out more than an earlier Snoop Dogg video. Ben Kingsleys
performance allows you to connect to this middle-aged man yearning for his
youth. Both he and Luke have more in common than either realizes – being girl
crazy, depressed about how life has unfolded and addicted to the cannabis. Its
the journey of discovery that finds these two unpolished men freakishly
attached to one another, if only for one summer.
Method Man and Mary Kate Olsen make small yet memorable
impressions in the movie, as Lukes Rastafarian
ganja supplier and a strung out Manhattan hippie respectively. Still, Luke and
Dr. Squires are by far the stand-out characters in The Wackness.
This film will probably fall under the radar against the
superhero blockbusters, but its worth the effort to seek out a smaller theatre
to find. Its clever, witty and most importantly, a breath of fresh air. The
plot is simple – love, sex and weed make for the best summers. For an
independent film, The Wackness stands
above the rest.
There is plenty of nostalgia in the film to make
a child of the 90s connect to each line, but we cant expect every generation
to get the point. Thankfully, there are a lot of people who love the era, all
of whom should peep this movie.