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"I have a million things to do today!",
This review is from: Chumscrubber [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] (DVD)
Suburban malaise, teenage angst, and general family dysfunction is at the center of Chumscrubber, a darkly ironic and incongruous film that explores our often-times skewed middleclass values, our obsession with materialism, and the over-reliance on prescription drugs to medicate children, when perhaps all they really need is someone to talk to.
It's a beautifully acted film, and has a terrific screenplay, and there's also lots of oddball characters thrown into the mix, but some viewers may find Chumscrubber a little to self-important and self conscious for it's own good. Adults act like selfish children; children act like egotistical adults, and self-obsession and miscommunication seems to be de rigor in this world of prefabricated suburbia.
Dean (a wonderful Jamie Bell) is a reclusive thoughtful teenager, whose life is turned upside down when he discovers that his best friend Troy (Josh Janowicz), the school drug supplier has hung himself. Anxious to get their hands on his hidden stash, a group of kids at school decide to blackmail Dean by planning to kidnap his younger brother, Charlie (Rory Culkin).
Billy (Justin Chatwin), Crystal (Camilla Belle), and Lee (Lou Taylor Pucci) hopefully will be able force Dean to come up with the drugs; the problem is that they kidnap the wrong Charlie (Thomas Curtis). Meanwhile, Terri (Rita Wilson) Charlie's an obnoxious interior designer mother, is just so focused on her upcoming remarriage to Michael, (Ralph Fiennes) the town's increasingly wimpy mayor that she doesn't notice her child is missing.
But Dean has problems of his own: plagued with grief over his best friend's death, he keeps taking prescription drugs forced on him by his pop-psychiatrist Dr. Phil-like father (William Fichtner), whose self-help book empire is threatened by Dean's pathological lack of interest. His self-obsessed mother (Allison Janney) is also hectically running her own show, too busy peddling her own new age vitamin supplement business, and is oblivious to Dean's problems.
Carrie, the mother of Troy (Glenn Close) wanders the neighborhood in a daze, returning dishes, madness blooming in her eyes, but no one bothers to reach out to her. Terri's wedding is planned for the same time that Carrie has scheduled her son's memorial, thus dividing the cul-de-sac neighbors over which event to attend. And Officer Lou Bratley (John Heard) is planning ways to disrupt that wedding and get Terri back, whilst Jerri (Carrie-Ann Moss) is trying to stay young by flirting with her daughter's friends; and Mayor Michael tries desperately to connect spiritually with the world around him.
It's all terribly dysfunctional as director Arie Posin manages to walk a fine line between satire and serious drama. But Chumscrubber works, and whilst the acidic comments on suburban life are nothing new, the film has an edgy, and darkly mordant humour that saves it from mediocrity. Tribute must also be given to Posin's talent as a director that he can assemble such a fine cast – all the actors perform magnificently, a deft mixture of the oddly amusing and the darkly touching. Mike Leonard January 06.