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The Wackness: Cliche Mixtape

Josh Peck with the ugly save

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The Wackness
Directed by Jonathan Levine
Sony Pictures Classics
Opens July 3

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 ain't ya parents' Ordinary People, son! Dealer Luke's first summer post–high 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. He's real like nothing else here: a big, pear-shaped UES Jewish kid unsuccessfully masking his insecurities—he keeps his shirt on when swimming and screwing— with street posturing and headphone-clogged self-absorption. All the drug-slinging material's counterfeit, but the script is refreshingly straight-faced in looking at the strange relationship between white boys and rap.

 
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