Wassup Rockers

The Wackness and The Dopeness.

Okay, so this review might spoil things mildly? But like the spoilers don’t matter cos if you go see it, it’s really for Josh Peck’s performance?

Just came back from a screening of The Wackness, now in limited release. I think the studio has a lot of faith in the movie cos the ads have been everywhere, even on the D train I like stared at the ad for like 50 minutes on my commute to work. I’m not really sure it’s gonna work because, for a movie that’s getting a lot of push, the movie theater wasn’t even like half full. I think that the movie’s gonna expand regardless and the studio is probably gonna hype it up as a movie with some sort of “cult” or “word-of-mouth” following. I use quotations because come on, it’s so fabricated. I do agree that the premise of the movie is a bit narrow so that it might be received as cult, but even from the film style you can tell it’s just a straight up normal movie. Wow, I seriously wish I could be more eloquent about this last point because that wasn’t clear at all. Well, we’ll see what the numbers are by the end of the holiday weekend.

So what should I talk about, the wackness or the dopeness of this movie?

The movie’s cute. If it comes out and the Virgin reduces the price to $10 I’ll probably buy it and watch it at least 5 times out of boredom. I’ll probably learn all the funnier lines by heart. But does it resonate? Not as much as I would have liked. It’s definitely a good try, but I get the feeling that even in a year, this movie will not have aged well.

There were a lot of funny moments at the strength of Josh Peck’s performance, which I seriously loved (and boy, is he adorable or what). Like there are certain moments or facial expressions when you think he’s being for real and you forget he’s some actor spitting out lines. It was awesome. He carried the movie well, I feel. As a coming of age story, it’s done pretty well–the whole deflowering sequence was actually great, and I like the emotional arc between the boy and the girl.

Ben Kingsley, as Dr. Squires, on the other hand, was a little too joke-y in his delivery. Seriously, I was so tired of him that at the climactic point of the movie, where Peck’s Luke is trynna save Dr. Squires’s ass, I was like, “Nah, Luke, just let the old fucker go, he don’t know what he’s talking about.”

That’s another weird thing, I wasn’t even sure if the climactic scene between Luke and Dr. Squires really happened, or if it was some sort of metaphorical fantasy sequence, because in the beginning part of the movie there are a couple of daydream sequences which established that we weren’t completely anchored onto reality. So this whole sequence happens where you think Dr. Squires might be in danger but he turns out okay. I was like, “Did Luke imagine this?” Okay, maybe I should stop reading and watching to much shit that blends reality with fantasy, but really, why can’t these works establish the rules of their fictional worlds a little more clearly? I like to think I’m not asking for too much.

I thought Olivia Thirlby, as Stephanie, was super pretty in the movie, and she played her part well, but her character was underwritten. I never really understood her character’s relationship with Dr. Squires. I mean, she was the stepdaughter, but I wasn’t sure whether they had a positive relationship or a negative relationship or an indifferent relationship. It was even less clear how Stephanie and her mother related to each other.

The one part in the storyline that fails, for me, is that I didn’t get a sense of Luke’s change. Stephanie pulls a Phoebe Caulfield and points to Luke that he’s gotta stop being so mopey (er, that’s the gist, anyway). At the end, I don’t know if he really changes, if that lesson really hits home. I get the feeling that Luke goes off to college and continues moping.

The Wackness is presented as a period piece, and I did appreciate the attention to details in the movie. 1994, the year in which this story is set, was before my time–I moved to the US in 1996. So it was cool to see one version of how people experienced the city at that point. There was a shot of the Twin Towers, quién sabe por qué, and also of the fountain at Washington Square… a reminder of how the landscape of this city is constantly in flux. There was plenty of bitching about Giuliani, good times. My favorite detail: the $20 bills looked different! The “datedness” attempts to take centerstage in the music choices, except that in the age when music never dies (thx, internets!), there’s no real nostalgia, just some seriously banging tracks to accompany Luke’s first kiss, etc. Of course, there were the requisite Biggie and Cobain references, including one point when Dr. Squires declares that he is “ready to die.” Speaking of the dialogue, it was hilarious because sometimes I, as well as many others out there, still use expressions that were used in the movie, like the overusage of “mad” as an adverb instead of as an adjective.

One thing that I seriously hated: this movie, like that other Olivia Thirlby-starring movie, uses the Mott the Hoople version of “All the Young Dudes.” C’mon! Now I’m never gonna be able to separate Thirlby from that song! It wasn’t used in The Wackness in the most crucial scene, but it was still a poignant one, and one of the last bits of the movie too.

By the way. I’d like to see Mary-Kate play a role where the character actually bathes. I mean, dude.

EDIT the day after, con más spoilers!:

You know, I totally take back what I said about how Josh Peck’s character hardly exhibited a change and continued moping. Thinking about it, Olivia Thirlby’s character says that shit because her life is unchangingly aight. I mean Stephanie’s family has issues too, but in the end she’s still living it up in her fucking penthouse (at least until she goes off to school) and still has friends. And where does Luke end up? His narrative arc takes a serious downturn, so all things considered, I guess he turned out aight and he’s really not as mopey as he should be. And that’s nice. So yeah, I was totally unfair.

Finally, I also want to point out there’s some condom-less action involved. I was like, “Ew you pendejos! You’re the reason 1 in 4 adult New Yorkers have herpes!!!” And let’s not even think about the HIV/AIDS rates in NYC. Harsh? Perhaps. But remember kids, love is not forever, but herpes is!

EDIT July 5: An interesting piece on the way the film treats hip-hop and race.  It does bring up some good points though honestly, I didn’t question Luke’s relation to hip-hop as much as I was disappointed by the lack of interesting POC in the movie.  See, with Luke it was more of an “I’ll take what I can get” attitude.  Honestly, if you’ve seen trash like Can’t Hardly Wait, Luke seems infinitely more complex in his relationship to hip-hop.  I got a sense that hip-hop really meant something to him, like as little as he may interact with POC, at least he has a desire to learn about this stuff and he’s not, like, running away scared every time he sees a black person or whatevs.  And he even points out that for other kids, hip-hop is some sort of trendy shit, but for him it’s ~*POR VIDA*~.

The presence of POC was another thing altogether.  Like there was Method Man playing Luke’s supplier, and then there was the dickhead popular guy played by Aaron Yoo.  That was pretty much it.  Not even a sassy-ass Boricua in sight…  I was really excited to see Aaron’s name and then in the movie he plays this really popular guy who pretty much dicks over Josh Peck’s character whenever he can, so I was like HAHA SUCKA WHO’S EMASCULATED NOW.

But ultimately Aaron and Method Man had minor roles.  They’re not defined as whole people, just as people who help define Luke’s character.  It’s cool, I guess, the story is about Luke.  The only part that really bothered me was seeing Method Man’s posse being all paranoid with big guns and shit about guarding their supplies.  Totally played for laughs.  I don’t know how historically accurate it was but it made me feel a li’l bit uncomfortable.

One last word about race: Dr. Squires gives some last words of advice to Luke that I found totally awkward and rude.  I don’t wanna give it away, but I was like, “Is he for real?!?!”

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