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The Wackness


For such a great actor, Ben Kingsley chooses the most bizarre roles. From classics like Schindler’s List and Gandhi to You Kill Me and all the way down to The Love Guru, Kingsley chooses obscure and unorthodox roles, but it is always clear that he relishes playing an eccentric character. The pattern holds true as he plays the young-hearted Dr. Squires in The Wackness.

Grade:

Luke Shapiro (Josh Peck) has just graduated from high school and finds out his parents might get evicted from their apartment. He decides to take on a bigger load at work as a pot dealer to help pay the rent. Meanwhile, one of his customers, Dr. Squires, gives him free therapy sessions in exchange for some weed. Luke ends up falling for Squires’ stepdaughter, Stephanie (Olivia Thirlby), as he tries to expand his horizons in his last summer at home.

Set in 1994 at the height of the rap age with artists like Biggie just making a name for themselves, you begin to get a sense of just how far the world of rap has fallen since. I, by no means, am a rap connoisseur, but I am at least able to recognize that most of the stuff produced today is not up to par. Anyway, Luke is so engrossed in the rap lifestyle that he begins to take on the gangster gait, the gangsta’ speech and all-around “thug life”. That is, until you remember – and it becomes apparent – he is a nerdy white kid who sells pot and is more focused on getting a friend than anything related to the music he listens to. Regardless, the first half of the film has him walking around NYC with a “damn, it feels good to be a gangster” feel to it.

Once you get beyond the amusing sense of style and mannerisms of Luke, you get to the heart of the film. He is trying to figure out where his life is headed and wholeheartedly believes life after school is just death’s waiting room. Dr. Squires, on the other hand, is stuck in a loveless marriage with Famke Janssen and wants to go back to his youth where he was wild and free. This results in the typical movie oddball friendship, but it’s surprisingly endearing. They’re on their own journeys, but are also enjoying each other’s company.

The relationship Luke builds with Stephanie becomes a lack-of-options relationship more than anything else. It builds in a natural way and results in a natural conclusion. The sex scenes are actually kind of funny due to their realistic, yet pathetic nature. We all know the second you hear “I don’t see nothing wrong…”, there will be some sex imminently.

The Wackness ends up as a hipster rap fan’s wet dream. There are quirky indie film aspects in an odd combination with old-school rap video sequences. It’s fun and intriguing, for the most part. Squires and Shapiro end up being solid characters that you can relate to and feel for, which gives the film that extra boost into making it worth your time. Peck does surprisingly well despite never closing his mouth – seriously. All in all it’s a just-above halfway decent film about finding yourself and accepting the hand you’re dealt. Not much more; not much less.

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