America's kids run rampant while parents too involved in their own lives remain clueless. That is part of the premise of The Chumscrubber, a satirical look at children and adults that is a mish-mash of potentially interesting but partially developed ideas wrapped around a horrible name for a movie. The adults are a bit too self-absorbed and cartoonish to be believable, even for a dark comedy. The Chumscrubber is a video game, one of those violent ones that parents rail against. Its headless protagonist feels out of touch with the violent and alien world around him.
This is exactly how Dean Stiffle (Jamie Bell, Dear Wendy, Undertow) feels. Dean is an outcast at school with few friends. His father Dr. Bill Stiffle (William Fichtner, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, The Longest Yard) is an author who constantly mines his son's problems for materials in his self-help books. Dean's only friend, also the local drug dealer, commits suicide. Dean finds the body, yet doesn't tell anybody about it. This prompts his classmates to ridicule him further. Three of them, Billy (Justin Chatwin, War of the Worlds, SuperBabies), Lee Parker (Lou Taylor Pucci, Thumbsucker, Personal Velocity), and Crystal Falls (Camilla Belle, The Ballad of Jack and Rose, The Invisible Circus), hatch a plan to kidnap Dean's brother to force Dean to find his friend's drug supply.
These kids aren't too smart, and wind up kidnapping Charlie Bratley (Thomas Curtis, North Country, Hansel & Gretel). The sad part is, nobody notices. Still, the three decide to press on, trying to force Dean to get the drugs lest they do something to Charlie. Charlie's mother Terri (Rita Wilson, Raise Your Voice, Auto Focus) is too busy preparing for her wedding to the Mayor, Michael Ebbs (Ralph Fiennes, Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit, The Constant Gardener), while her ex-husband (John Heard, White Chicks, Mind the Gap) is too busy harassing Ebbs. Ebbs is absorbed with Dr. Stiffle's book, much to the annoyance of Terri. Surprisingly, Billy and Lee tell their parents the truth – they kidnapped Charlie. Their parents laugh it off as a joke. All these kids need to say is that what they are doing is "for school," and then it's okay.
The only people with even a hint of a conscience are Dean and arguably Crystal. Dean decides to try to get the drugs because he knows that freeing Charlie is the right thing to do. Interestingly enough, initially Dean was apathetic towards his friend's death. Now, he is one of the few people willing to act to do something about Charlie. The cast is large and every person has a few minutes to do their thing, but this gives The Chumscrubber a padded feeling, as if writer/director Arie Posin and co-writer Zac Stanford were trying bit too hard to make everybody seem loony. Because of this, it also takes a while for things to get moving in the movie. Everything does coalesce into one big nightmare in the end, but it doesn't quite feel like it was worth waiting for. For Posin and Stanford, the community in The Chumscrubber was the ultimate suburban nightmare. All of the houses and landscaping look idyllic, but this covers the fact that all of the families inside are on the verge of collapse. But everything is a bit too simplistic and broad to work as satire.
|Mongoose Rates It: Okay.|
|1 hour, 42 minutes, Rated R for language, violent content, drug material, and some sexuality.|
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