The Wackness * * 1/2

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Director: Jonathan Levine.
Screenplay: Jonathan Levine.
Starring: Ben Kingsley, Josh Peck, Famke Janssen, Olivia Thirlby, Mary-Kate Olsen, Jane Adams, Talia Balsam, Method Man, Aaron Yoo, David Wohl, Bob Dishy.

With chameleon-like versatility, Ben Kingsley went from peace-loving pacifist in “Gandhi” to intimidating pychopath in “Sexy Beast”. Here, he finds a juicy role that slots somewhere
in-between.

Luke Shapiro (Josh Peck), is a small-time dealer who literally carts weed around in an ice-cream wagon. He thinks he’s depressed; his therapist, Dr. Squires (Ben Kingsley), thinks he just needs to get laid. Trouble is, the girl Luke’s into is Squires’ step-daughter Stephanie (Olivia Thirlby), a fact he keeps secret from his mentor. The movie follows the evolution of these relationships – Luke and Squires, Luke and Stephanie, and Squires and his cold wife (Famke Janssen).

A fine little coming-of-age/rite-of-passage film that’s elevated above the norm due to fine performances from the two leads. Peck perfectly captures the endearing, but dumb as a bag of hammers, nature of Luke. Director Jonathan Levine does well in keeping the 90’s style flowing and nostalgic, with great use of hip-hop soundtrack but really this film is about one thing and one thing only…Ben Kingsley! Is this really Gandhi we are watching, sucking on bongs, smoking blunts and shagging one of the Olsen twins in a phone box? As it appears, yes it is, and it’s fun to see Kingsley letting loose again and proving how good an actor he is. The problem is though, when he’s not on screen the film suffers and becomes a tad tedious until he appears again.

A decent effort by all involved but the material is nothing new and relies a little to heavily on Kingsley’s eccentricity carrying it home.

Mark Walker

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