Movies like crazy/beautiful are rare, so it's so disappointing to see such a novel idea (well, for a movie) resort to typical movie shenanigans to move it to its end. Until recently, movies shied away from interracial romances. They also refuse to deviate from negative cultural stereotypes. crazy/beautiful eschews these and other conventions. Director John Stockwell even refuses to provide Spanish subtitles Carlos Nunez's mother. Carlos (newcomer Jay Hernandez) lives in the shadow of downtown Los Angeles. He wakes up every morning before dawn in order to take a long bus route to school in upscale Pacific Palisades. He wants to work hard and earn good grades so he can go to the Naval Academy and succeed in life.

Nicole Oakley (Kirsten Dunst, Get Over It, Bring It On) lives a privileged life, but takes no advantage of it. She attends the same school as Carlos, but could care less. She constantly ditches school to smoke pot and engages in all sorts of self-destructive behavior. Carlos and Nicole meet at the beach, where Nicole is doing community service for a DUI. As in any other movie, the attraction is immediate, and the two begin a fiery relationship. Both are unfamiliar with the other's way of life. Carlos wants structure and control, whereas Nicole wants independence. Her father Tom (Bruce Davison, The King is Alive, X-Men) in a congressman, so he has the means the help Carlos get into the Academy. He does not want the two of them together.

This is the most problematic element of Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi's script. Their relationship moves quickly, which is understandable. The tension between Dunst and Davison feels palpable. However, in a story that moves without regard to convention, they rely on tired storytelling techniques to add an element of friction between Carlos and Nicole. This, and the fallout and inevitable reconciliation is no different from any other movie out there. Nicole's actions are in line with her personality. Carlos and Tom act in ways contrary to their characters. Yes, love can cause someone to change, but Carlos' actions (or one missed appointment in particular) stretch the credibility of the script a little too far.

In no way should this disparage the movie's better aspects. Dunst and Hernandez have good chemistry together. Aside from her increasing erratic choices in roles, Dunst is still one of the best actresses in her age range. Hernandez is off to a good start also. It is so refreshing to see his character as a normal teenager instead of a gangbanger. crazy/beautiful also deserves merit for being so much more intelligent than other teen fare. Missing are the feeble attempts at humor. The story does take a hard look at serious issues like drinking, drugs and sex in an intelligent matter. If it feels like this movie doesn't go far enough, it is because the studios reportedly had Stockwell tone down some of the sex, language, and other rebellious habits of Nicole in order to maintain the PG-13 rating. Too bad, since the movie would be more powerful if the material remained.

Haro Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 36 minutes, Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material involving teens, drug/alcohol content, sexuality, and language.

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