Robert Downey Jr. and Charlie Bartlett


Like most wannabe heroes of the eager-to-please teen comedy, poor little rich boy Charlie Bartlett (Anton Yelchin) is too charming by half and not nearly quirky enough. Expelled from his ritzy private school, our blazered hero soon finds himself dispatched to a public school by his desperate single mother (Hope Davis). Some mild narrative edge—Charlie goes into business supplying the student body with prescription drugs—is soon lost when we hit the troubled-youth talking points: overmedicated adolescents ill-served by crumbling high schools, a drug-happy medical establishment, and malfunctioning parents. Davis is intelligent as Marilyn Bartlett, who’s partial to washing down her own meds with Chardonnay and treats her son as a replacement husband. But as the school’s barely coping principal, Robert Downey Jr. seems muffled. Which may be why he’s given a gun to wave around in the third act, before everything falls into wholesome place. Like its anodyne hero, Charlie Bartlett wants to make mischief, but it wants even more to get a gold star.