The difference between teen movies and movies about teenagers couldn't be more vividly clear than it is in this ensemble drama. After mild-mannered sixth-grader Sam (Rory Culkin) runs afoul of class bully George (Joshua Peck), a loud, overweight, obnoxious kid hated by just about everyone who's ever crossed his path, Sam's protective brother, Rocky (Trevor Morgan), concocts a prank designed to give George his due. Playing on George's secret desire to be accepted, Rocky invites him to a special birthday celebration for Sam, confiding that Sam often talks about how cool George is and warning him to keep the get-together a secret. The plan is simple: Rocky and his friend Marty (Scott Mechlowicz) will take George, Sam and his pals Clyde (Ryan Kelley) and Millie (Carly Schroeder) on a boat trip down a local creek, then trick George into stripping and strand him. The adolescent tyrant will be forced to walk home naked, which should teach him to think twice before beating up on smaller kids. Sam is in on the secret; Clyde and Millie aren't and wouldn't approve, even though George on his best behavior is still an overbearing loudmouth with a knack for getting on other people's nerves, always shoving his expensive video camera in the other kids' faces and lying to make himself seem daring, sophisticated and experienced when he's clearly nothing of the sort. But removed from the Darwinian social order of the school yard, where sheer size and bluster make George seem fearsome, it's clear that he's just a friendless, pampered, maladroit fat kid who spends too much time in his room imagining that he's none of those things. Sam is too fundamentally decent to condone humiliating his nemesis once he's gotten a good, clear look at the loneliness and insecurity under George's belligerent bravado. He persuades Rocky to call off the stunt, but Marty, whose handsome, confident exterior is laid thinly over a turbulent swamp of anger, self-hatred and resentment at life's unfairness, isn't about to let go of an opportunity to right a wrong. And so the prank proceeds and goes horribly, inevitably wrong. Writer-director Jacob Aaron Estes gives his young actors, who range in age from 13 to early 20s, unusually rich, complex material with which to work. There isn't a one-note character in the mix, and they respond with haunting, subtle performances that feel utterly natural and unaffected. It's a striking debut for Estes, and a remarkable showcase for the cast.
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- Released: 2004
- Rating: R
- Review: The difference between teen movies and movies about teenagers couldn't be more vividly clear than it is in this ensemble drama. After mild-mannered sixth-grader Sam (Rory Culkin) runs afoul of class bully George (Joshua Peck), a loud, overweight, obnoxious… (more)