If you were to take an 'American Beauty' DVD, an old, tagged up mixtape, and 'The Kids' on VHS, you'd have a concoction much like 'The Wackness'. CJSF programmer, Nick Routley, reviews…
In the summer of 1994, New York City was a hot, throbbing mass of hip hop mix tapes and drugs, and from the opening drum kick, The Wackness puts you right in the moment. (For the 25 - 35 demographic, this film is chockfull of "oh yeah!" pop culture references)
Basically, the story revolves around high-school grad Luke Shapiro (Josh Peck) and his unlikely friend, Dr. Squires (Ben Kingsley). Even though the two are over 30 years apart in age, that hasn't stopped them from bonding over therapy sessions that Luke pays for with sacks of weed he sells from a flavoured ice cart. Really, both men have are living lives that are falling apart at the seams, and over the course of the Summer break, the two spiral towards what could either be epiphany or a nervous breakdown.
To describe this movie doesn't really do it justice. New York City is at any point in its history is fascinating, but 1994 is widely hailed as the "Golden Age of Hip Hop", and NYC was the center of the universe. The is one thing that people should know before seeing this film – The Wackness is not a typical hip hop movie as the presence of Method Man (with an implausible Jamaican accent), ample marijuana smoking, and killer soundtrack made up of classic east-coast rap might suggest. This is a superbly acted story about two unlikely friends, and the complications that arise throughout their contrasting stages of life.
Doctor Squire's step-daughter, Stephanie (Olivia Thurlby) is red-hot as Luke's love interest, and Ben Kingsley is magnificent in a role thadeftly navigates a full spectrum of comedy and drama.
The film was a fan favourite at the Sundance Film Fest this year, and it will be well worth the price of admission once it hits Vancouver.