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Let’s admit it: John Hughes is a tad overrated. As much as I like his movies, they’re not part of the cinematic canon. We can all agree, though, that they’re fun, humorous, and maybe a little insightful as we see into the lives of adolescents. This is basically my summation of Charlie Bartlett, because anyone who remembers high school will find much to appreciate.

Charlie (Anton Yelchin) keeps getting kicked out of prep schools. He’s smart, but he keeps finding himself in trouble because he’s trying to make people like him. His mom, Marilyn (Hope Davis), sends him to public school since there are no private schools left for him to attend. When students begin to tell him about their private issues, he starts “prescribing” them medication by getting it from his psychiatrist. Yet in no time, that development ends. The movie isn’t about drugs but how Charlie wants kids to like him and what he’s willing to do. And haven’t we all been there?

Even though a handful of clichés may get in the way of one enjoying the movie, the performances cancel them out. Yelchin fits into the role of Charlie like a glove, Davis shines in the role of the nutjob mother without turning her into a cartoon, and Robert Downey, Jr. continues to make acting look easy, sculpting a believable character that we want to hug.

After watching the movie, I remembered how difficult high school can be. Granted, I never bought pills or sought psychiatric advice from another student. But I did want to be liked, and even though I don’t condone some of Charlie’s approaches to becoming the big guy on campus, I do respect his internal conflict that we all have all shared at one point or another.

Rating: 8/10

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