The Wackness is a mix tape of clichés, with writer-director Jonathan Levine taking cuts from a dozen or more life-affirming coming-of-age melodramas and setting them to the backbeat of NYC 94. The movie begins by ballyhooing its edge: The Sony Classics logo gets tagged over; teenage hip-hop head Luke (Josh Peck) is introduced stonewalling his psychiatrist, Dr. Squires (Ben Kingsley)then, before the session wraps, the patient pays his shrink off in . . . kind bud! Ohhhhhhhh, schnaps (insert DJ scratching noise)this aint ya parents Ordinary People, son! Dealer Lukes first summer posthigh school finds him socially stalled by weed paranoia, wondering if his lingering virginity will be permanent. As his old man is the most castrated patriarch since Jim Backus strapped on an apron, midlife satyr Doc S. becomes the substitute father figure, paraphrasing Harold and Maude platitudes about LIFE! in a wobbly accent. This, combined with notably fugly cinematography, should equate to so much Sundance offal, but Peck keeps the production shy of execrable. Hes real like nothing else here: a big, pear-shaped UES Jewish kid unsuccessfully masking his insecuritieshe keeps his shirt on when swimming and screwingwith street posturing and headphone-clogged self-absorption. All the drug-slinging materials counterfeit, but the script is refreshingly straight-faced in looking at the strange relationship between white boys and rap.
July 11-25, 2008