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NYC. Summer 1994. The girls were fly. The music was dope. And Luke was just trying to deal. Even though 18-year-old Luke Shapiro (Josh Peck) is stashing away loads of cash dealing pot, he's still a virgin, his family may be evicted, and his only friend is his eccentric shrink and client, Dr. Jeffrey Squires (Oscar-winner* Ben Kingsley, Sexy Beast, House of Sand and Fog), who is intent on living life to the fullest. But when Squires' party girl stepdaughter Stephanie (Juno's Olivia Thirlby) opens her heart, Luke learns that love, no matter how long it lasts, can turn a life that is wack, totally dope. With surprising performances from Famke Janssen, Mary-Kate Olsen and Method Man, and a pulsing hip-hop score, this exuberant coming-of-age comedy captures a season of discovery with wit and warmth.
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Top Customer Reviews
The film has its cookie characters in drug users (Mary-Kate Olsen, Jane Adams) and is filled with truisms which adds boredom to a dialouge already burdened with too much seriousness. While the situation is comic, the dialouge fails to keep pace. The characters lacked a certain amount of believability. The film got rave reviews, perhaps due the original plot and underlying themes, but as a comedy it won't have you rolling on the floor. 3 1/2 stars
PARENTAL GUIDE: F-bomb, sex, brief nudity.
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The award winning film (Sundance Audience Award) "The Wackness" is now out on DVD and it's definitely one of the coolest and more pleasant coming-of-age films to come out in a long while and a DVD with features that embraces that non-traditional style courtesy of writer/director Josh Levine.
"The Wackness" stars well-known legendary award winning actor Ben Kingsley and "Drake & Josh" actor Josh Peck who appears to have shed his young teen Nickelodeon image for the character of 18-year-old Luke Shapiro. Both playing roles so different from what we have seen of them and both delivering an exceptional performance.
The year is 1994, A high school teenager in New York who doesn't have any friends but spends his time selling marijuana using his disguise as a person who sells ice in the park, while saving up all his money.
But all is not cool in the life of Luke, his parents are having some financial problems and in danger of being evicted, his mind is on getting laid and losing his virginity and the only person he can communicate his emotions to is one of his clients, Dr. Jeffrey Squires (Ben Kingsley). He wants some anti-depressants but Squires tells him to embrace his pain and more or less, he needs to find a girlfriend and get laid.
Dr. Squires is not exactly a role model for Josh. He's a product of the 60's, loves doing cocaine and marijuana and somehow, is able to connect with Luke and provides him professional advice for drugs. But like Luke, his life is not at all going that great. His relationship with his wife Kristin is not at all going so great and all they have is their memories of sex and doing drugs. Meanwhile, he notices that his step-daughter Stephanie (Olivia Thirlby, "Juno") is getting closer to Luke. But realizes that it's not love that she has for Luke, it's just a sexual fling.
Luke doesn't have much experience with people, love and thus he discovers himself while hanging out with Stephanie. Dr. Squires as a father doesn't want his stepdaughter to be around a drug dealer but at the same time, as his psychiatrist, he doesn't feel that Stephanie is good for Luke. But after their passionate time together, he develops feelings for Stephanie so strong that when he says the words of "I Love You" to her, Stephanie realizes that this fling has gone so far and ends their romantic fling and all communication with Luke. Around that same time, Dr. Squires wife Kristin decides to leave her husband.
Both men are obviously heartbroken but somehow, they find comfort in talking with each other and thus Luke and Dr. Squires form a friendship that would interestingly introduce Dr. Squires to Luke's world and for Luke, getting the needed therapy from his shrink. So, the story pretty much focuses on a young man (Luke) who is guided by an older man (Dr. Squires) but then the story starts to shift of the younger guy guiding an older man.
VIDEO & AUDIO:
The film is featured in anamorphic widescreen ala 2:35:1 ratio. The film is shot in different parts of Tokyo but oviously scenes such as the Twin Towers had to be put into the film. When you do a period piece, especially if it's 1994, with a busy city like New York, unless you have a huge budget, you got make do what with what you have. And thus a lot of the scenes are shot indoors but you do have some outdoor scenes with Luke and Stephanie at the beach or areas where Luke is dealing drugs.
As for audio, you get a English and French 5.1 Dolby Digital track and the film is primarily a dialogue driven film. But audio-wise, what makes this film shine is the fact that it's 1994 and the old school songs, especially the hip-hop songs of that time are what comes blaring out your speakers. Bass and all courtesy of artists such as Notorious B.I.G., a Tribe Called Quest, KRS-One, Nas, Biz Markie, etc.
The DVD shines in its amount of special features offered. Included are:
* Commentary with Director Jonathan Levine and Actor Josh Peck - A very casual and cool commentary and you learn important tidbits about the film. From Ben Kingsley giving advice to Josh, having to work with Mary-Kate in the amount of hours they had to work with her and how hard it was for Josh Peck to do his lovemaking scene with Olivia Thirlby. Levine and Peck have cool and fun commentary talking about blunts, the music, it's typically a commentary that is like hanging out with friends. Especially at the end when they talk about hanging out after the commentary and playing XBOX 360, you don't hear that on director's commentary, so it's all good.
* Keeping it Real: A Day in the Life of Writer/Director Jonathan Levine - For this eight minute feature, Jonathan Levine is traveling around the country and London to promote "The Wackness" at film festivals and interviews at radio stations. Jonathan is joined by the cast and his girlfriend, production designer Annie Spitz and his brother and his girlfriend.
* Time in a Bottle: Behind the Scenes of The Wackness - An 18-minute featurette featuring behind-the-scenes on the making of the film. Levine explains that the film is not 100% autobiographical and a screenplay that was based on an idea he had during filmschool. Also, featuring Levine's staff and how they were able to get that 1994 setting.
* The Luke Shapiro Show Episode 1 & 2 - These are five minute short episodes that were created for cable access featuring Luke Shapiro and his doorman Miguel. The first featuring Luke, Miguel (on keyboards) and his super Tony. The second featuring Luke, Miguel (on keyboards) and a dancer.
* Deleted Scenes - This scene features four deleted/extended scenes from the film. The total amount of deleted scenes is about five minutes long featuring "Luke Works in Cap and Gown", "Extended Squires Vacation", "Squires in Stephanie's Room" and "Dad's Walkman Scheme".
* The Wackness Trailers - Featuring all five theatrical and teaser trailers
I have to say that "The Wackness" is a pretty cool coming-of-age film and yes, there have been many of these type of movies but a definitely, unique film. Having the film set in 1994, having the main character as a drug dealer, having his psychiatrist as one of his clients and also a hardcore drug user and just how everything just comes together is quite enjoyable.
But the performances by Ben Kingsley and Josh Peck was well done. Two roles by talents that I would never see coming. Ben Kingsley in so many serious roles in "Ghandi", "Schindler's List", "Rules of Engagement" to name a few and then Josh Peck who stars in the Nickelodeon teen show "Drake & Josh", these two taking on roles so different and to see them drinking alcohol and doing/dealing drugs, definitely it's quite a bit of a surprise. But the unique thing is that these two talents had tremendous chemistry and everything worked out quite well.
And there are also a good number of talent in this film. Olivia Thirlby did a great job as Squire's daughter Stephanie and Luke's love interest. Did a great job playing a sexual teen and then you have Mary-Kate Olsen as a pothead who just makes out with Ben Kingsley. Famke Janssen as Dr. Squires sexy wife, Method Man playing the character "Percy" as Luke's supplier and much more.
There are just these small moments in the film, from mannerisms to the small things that a character does, it really makes this film seem quite realistic and make it all work. Of course, the early 90's nostalgia and the music plays a big part in the film. When Luke and Olivia are making love, R. Kelly playing on the boom box to Luke playing Zelda on his NES, these small things are what many people who grew up at the time and listened to the music can related to. So, definitely a nice touch!
And the DVD, just makes you love the film even more with cool commentary, the featurettes and more. It's not all business-like and professional. You have Levine and Peck quite casual and as I mentioned in the commentary section, it's like hanging out with a few friends and just everyone having a good time.
Now granted, perhaps I may be a bit biased having grown up with the pop culture of the 90's and hearing the songs and the style from those years boosting my appreciation for the film but for an indie film, I have to admit that the overall presentation was quite non-traditional. Again, there are a bunch of "coming-of-age" films out there but this one was really thinking outside of the box and instead of getting a "revenge of the nerd" happy-feel good storyline, each of these characters have flaws but it's all about discovering one's self.
All in all, a solid DVD with a lot of humor, a lot of soul and all out fun!
I think everyone should go into this movie not knowing what it's about. It's honestly not because I'm lazy and don't want to explain it to you, but I notice that in my opinion that when you heighten the expectations for someone who hasn't seen the movie, it makes the movie seem not as good as it really is.
Watch the clips Amazon supplied and that's all you need to know... It's a movie about how adults shouldn't be embarrassed to take advice from the younger generation, because it's not about age IT'S ABOUT KNOWLEDGE. And guess what? Sometimes they can be right.
It's a movie about not being afraid to live life; don't hide from it or bottle your problems. Don't look at the bad side of things, look at the good things. People say that's easier said than done, but the trick is to PRETEND!!!
When something bad happens you need to embrace your fears and embrace the pain that comes with it. If you run away from life with drugs (and by now everyone should know that includes prescription drugs) and not face your problems, you eventually just start to experience all the downs in life.
If what you choose is to embrace your pain, learn from it, and have the courage to not to be afraid to take chances & risks in your life-- WELL THAT'S WHAT LIFE IS ALL ABOUT.
If it weren't for the pain in life, the joy wouldn't be so good. It's like the spoiled kid everyone went to school with, they got everything they wanted their entire lives and in the end nothing in the world can ever make them happy.
If you were even SOMEWHAT interested in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, American Beauty, Donnie Darko, I guarantee you WILL love The Wackness. Even if you didn't like these movies.....
WATCH THE WACKNESS!!!
I've grown up watching Peck on Nick although he played great characters in those films he was mostly the side man and fell under the radar until he started getting a little older. My point is that I think this guy is a pretty good dramatic actor, better than his comedic roles he played on Nick. The acting was solid especially the slightly self destructive pot smoking Ben Kingsley, loved the cast. The story itself was a kind of crazy, I mean I believe that drug dealers are usually depicted as these people that get love and hate but not a lot of loneliness or at least not the high school type guys. I love how they put that spin on it because somehow everyone is linked by this. Peck's character shares what a lot of us had or even have, that big chunk of life you felt like you missed or are about to miss and all that experience and life just falls into your lap at one time.
I mean overall I loved the movie, I think the insane but realistic characters even though the weed thing sends it over a bit but it pulls it to be a super cool movie. It also has one of the sickest soundtracks of all time. I love the fact that the movie didn't try and make cliche's or make fun of hip hop. It felt like it was truly paying homage to the music, another thing that helps ease through the times. If you're a fan of good movies period I know you'll love this film. It was hard to find anything to take away from it but it's definitely a must see.
Now, unfortunately the "not cool" parts - 1) found the main character (Josh Peck) somewhat unbelievable. Don't get me wrong he played a good role but to have a hip, good-looking kid, into rap & hip-hop, with `mad' slang and being a huge pot dealer not being able to get laid by the age of 18, was hard to believe. 2) the movie never explained (not even a quick line or flashback) how the main character was able to buy extreme large quantities of weed from Jamaicans in Queens/Brooklyn and sell it to everyone out in the tough streets and schools of NYC. I mean this was a skinny, Jewish kid peddling pot left & right to people from an icee cart and not getting jumped or arrested - huh? 3) The advice given, the large drug and alcohol used and exchanged, the hanging out time at the bar, on the streets, at the beach between Kingsley character (the shrink) and Luke (main character) was a little far fetched.
All rolled up, I give this movie a 3.8 star rating. Sure there were some implausibleness about the general premise and characters but with the strong bonds that the viewer forms with these relatable and tender story lines and characters, it doesn't really matter. The story and the directing really made me want to go back and rewind some cassette tapes of some good mid-nineties hip/hop and rap, skateboard or roam the streets (especially in NYC), check out some fly girls, and then kick back and relax with some 40's in brown paper bags and have a good smoke. And if that doesn't make this movie worth watching then that's "wack".