White kid with single parent is kicked out of his expensive prep school for disciplinary reasons and finds himself at public school, where he wants desperately to be popular so he takes to doing semi-illegal things and ends the movie a hero. Meanwhile, an adult and semi-father-figure to the kid expresses his depression and disconnection by hanging out at the pool behind his house and looking sad. Prison is involved, the school bully is fought then befriended, Cat Stevens songs are heard… but enough about Rushmore, I’m supposed to be writing about Charlie Bartlett! I don’t really want to, though – I wanna write about House and Wavelength and Fantomas instead, so I’ll keep this short.
Pretty good movie… kid becomes the psychotherapist of his whole school, prescribing drugs he gets from his own analyst after finding out you can get high off Ritalin. His dad is not dead but in prison, Charlie ashamed doesn’t walk to talk about/to him. RD Jr. is like a dull cross between Bill Murray in Rushmore and the principal in Ferris Bueller, but a good and sympathetic character. Hope Davis is actually better than Downey as Charlie’s crazy/spacey mother. Charlie has a crush on the principal’s daughter, and consults one kid into attempted suicide before he’s caught. Principal is fired (and ends up with a happier job as a teacher) after students (only slightly provoked by Charlie) trash the school as a protest against cameras in the student lounge.
Jonathan Rosenbaum compares it not to Rushmore but to Pump Up The Volume and Mumford. “Charlie Bartlett might not be as bold as its predecessor. Yet given how politically gutless most teen movies have become, it may provoke audiences as much as [Pump Up The Volume] did 18 years ago. I’ve lost count of the number of times its opening has been delayed since I first saw it last July, so clearly it has somebody worried that its defiant spirit will cut into its profitability—which is entirely to its credit.”