Damn It Feels Good to be a Gangsta

I should preface this by saying that I really am no film critic. If I were you, I wouldn't base whether or not you see a movie on my critique. But, nevertheless, there are some things I can tell you about The Wackness. The first thing is that director/writer Jonathan Levine loves the '90s. How else could you explain the countless references and deliberate placement of all things '90s? But the problem is, the film feels a little weighted by all of it. It seems as if Levine would rather remind us constantly of the era the film is taking place in than the story itself. New York City in 1994 is a perfect backdrop for the events taking place, but trying to make the decade a character in itself was a little bit too much. And yet you can't blame him for being nostalgic. It is possibly his enthusiasm for what he is portraying that makes the film feel so genuine.
The story goes something like this: Luke Shapiro (Josh Peck) is an unpopular soon-to-be-ex high school student who, to paraphrase a classmate, is "only good for weed." He takes on the challenge of drug dealing and strikes a deal with a therapist, Dr. Squires (Sir Ben Kingsley), to exchange marijuana for therapy sessions. But it turns out that the man who is supposed to be helping people achieve happiness and inner-peace can't seem to find it himself. He yearns to be a teenager again, and befriends Shapiro as a way of achieving this. Luke tells the Dr. of his problems with girls and in no time Dr. Squires becomes somewhat of a mentor to him, making sure he doesn't make the same mistakes he did. But it turns out the only girl Luke really wants is Stephanie (Juno's Olivia Thirlby) , Dr. Squires' stepdaughter, the good kind of bad girl (or is it the bad kind of good girl?)
To add to his problems, Luke's parents are teetering on poverty, so he begins to deal drugs full time, as a way to support his family. This is where Mary Kate Olsen comes in, as spacey modern day hippie Union with pseudo-dreadlocks. Dr. Squires' quest for youth leads to the now-famous makeout scene between him and union, but his life, and his marriage, continue to deteriorate. What really surprised me was that among all the drama were really some funny moments, mostly lines from Dr. Squires. In the end, the story leaves much to be desired, but it's fitting for the characters who really see no point in change. Ultimately, I enjoyed it, and I think it shows promise for up and coming actors Josh Peck and Olivia Thirlby.

The Wackness is now playing in select cities and will open nationwide August 1st. Rated R.

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