Movie Review: The Wackness

Studio: Sony

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 Markie’s 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.

He’s the local weed man on his Upper

East Side block and to most of his classmates. Although he’s sold to them for

most of their high school years, he’s 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. He’s got no friends, no girl to call his own,

dysfunctional parents constantly at each other’s 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 year’s

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.

reigned supreme.

Levine allows the audience to reminisce over a time when

opposite sex crushes were priority and parents just didn’t understand. Of

course, in the midst of Luke’s 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 Kingsley’s

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. It’s

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 Luke’s 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 it’s worth the effort to seek out a smaller theatre

to find. It’s 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 can’t 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.