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3.4 out of 5 stars
3.4 out of 5 stars
The Chumscrubber [DVD]
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on 25 April 2017
Comic Antics of what the upper class drug dealers will do to obtain the stash of a dead dealer
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on 14 January 2006
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.
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on 11 October 2013
I loved this movie. The title is great and symbolic of the movie. The title Chumscrubber comes from a video game played by the kids. After all the big bombs go off the city is filled with mutants. One man decides to rid the city of the evil mutants or Chum, hence he is the Chumscrubber. The ironic part is that the Chumscrubber's head is detached from his body, i.e. he is a mutant also, but doesn't realize he is part of the problem. This is symbolic of the community. Everyone lives in their own little idea world and ignores anything that would change it. The details in the movie is interesting as the people are neat freaks. In one scene, the mother straightens up papers on a table, that already appear straight. If you notice when they are in the garage, there is no clutter. Everything is clean and in its place. The attention to detail, the odd twists, and vibrant personalities makes this a must see for anyone with half an intellect.
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on 28 June 2008
The Cumscrubber's plot is far from simple: When a popular high school drug dealer hangs himself, it's up to Jamie Bell to continue his legacy after a bunch of 'cool kids' kidnap a young boy (who they think is his brother) in order to make their plan of blackmail successful... and that's the sane part!

Certain other plot points include a woman so focused on having the perfect wedding that she looses all sense of logic; a mayor who slowly descends into madness through the symbolic shape of dolphins; a relentless and unforgiving police officer who's intent on getting his girl back by any means possible, and above all, stupendously dysfunctional families.

The Chumscrubber somehow manages to roll all these elements and more into quite a short little film, without ever crossing over that line into pretentiousness- which is something so many of these films unfortunately do. As always, Jamie Bell steals the show but admittedly has some good competition against a very strong supporting cast, which is useful as The Chumscrubber is extremely character driven.

Ignoring a few quiet flaws, -i.e. why everybody in the neighborhood seems to be going insane is never fully explained, and none of the characters seem to be particularly bothered about any of the strange events that're going on- The Chumscrubber still packs a heck of a punch by covering up its flaws with incredible weirdness.

By having all these amazing characters cooped up in one small suburban neighborhood -reminiscent of enclosing them all in a tiny room- the climax to The Chumscrubber seems like they're all let loose on each other like wild animals, as all the supposedly random events come together in a big, character driven, metaphorical explosion!

In the end, at these prices, The Chumscrubber is probably one of the greatest bargains on Amazon, due to it being more of an experience rather than a film. In a word, it's wonderful. The Chumscrubber defies all expectations in the best possible way, ending up as more of an enjoyabely quirky and ultimately odd fantasy fairy-tale. One of my instant favorites.

See this film.
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HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERon 23 February 2007
Of all the dramedies about suburbia's dark side, "The Chumscrubber" has to be the one... with the absolute worst title.

But fortunately almost everything else about the movie is good. Arie Posen's first full-length movie does manage to be jaded without being heartless, dark without being self-conscious. Instead it's morbidly funny -- few movies can make drugs, kidnapping and mental collapse seem so entertaining.

Dean (Jamie Bell) visits his drug-dealing pal Troy for some Prozac -- and finds Troy hanging from a noose. He simply walks out of the house, past a house-party full of adults. There's no point in telling them, because everyone around him is too preoccupied.

In the days that follow, Troy is tormented by his classmates, and by his psychoanalytical dad, who is trying to make him feel grief against his will. But things take a nasty turn when school thug Billy (Justin Chatwin) demands that Dean turn over all of Troy's drugs... which he doesn't have. So he kidnaps Dean's little brother... except he gets the wrong kid.

Instead, Billy has kidnapped the future stepson of the town mayor. Now Billy is threatening to kill the kid unless Dean turns over the drugs. Sooner or later, someone is going to go looking for him. Things come to a head at a wedding and a funeral -- fights will break out, confessions will be made, and the kidnapping erupts into violence that disrupts both the wedding and the funeral.

Normally mental breakdowns and kidnappings aren't funny at all, but Arie Posen manages to make them seem that way. "The Chumscrubber" is full of weird, frighteningly plausible events like wedding-obsessed Terri failing to notice that her son is missing, or the kidnapped Charlie swimming with his kidnappers.

Most of the movie is a buildup, with the various people running around in their little bubbles, oblivious to everybody else -- even to amoral teens kidnapping little kids. The dialogue is deliciously wry and warped ("I don't think you're crazy." "You know, there are several major book chains that would be willing to disagree with you on that point...").

With a movie this cynica, it's surprising that he final half hour is even a bit heartwarming. But it is, when Dean finally faces up to how he felt about Troy, talks to Troy's increasingly fragile mother, and karma catches up to certain people. And Posen manages it without losing that sense of twisted irony.

The cast of characters aren't quite stereotypes, but they're definitely offbeat -- the kindly seductress, the dolphin-obsessed mayor, the mom obsessed with a "perfect" family and a little brother who pours powdered pills into food. But the best one here is Bell -- his numb, prickly acting is excellent, and he is nothing short of brilliant when he finally breaks down in his bedroom -- hallucinating about Troy.

Dark, twisted and bizarre, "The Chumscrubber" is a truly hilarious dramedy about disconnected living. Just ignore that awful title.
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on 11 June 2017
A thin Donnie Darko imitation without much of a plot, this film has a good cast and quite an atmospheric soundtrack but it doesn't really hold your attention. It appears to mimic several of the elements of DD but doesn't do anything very interesting with them.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 17 October 2009
Dean is a withdrawn teen living in a wealthy suburb where his only friend is Troy, his drug dealer. When Troy dies, a school bully kidnaps Dean's little brother to force him to find Troy's stash.

What a terrific movie! I loved it and I think I could see it again and again and still see new things. Although the "alienated teens with self-absorbed parents living in luxury" plot has been done before, there was nothing cliché about this script. The story constantly surprised me and was quite intense and exciting. The cast is full of big stars: Glenn Close plays Troy's shell-shocked mother, Ralph Fiennes is a spaced-out groom, John Heard plays a tough cop, Allison Janney is Dean's mother obsessed with selling VeggieForce, Jason Isaacs is another parent oblivious to his child and the list goes on. Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot) is the star, however, and he's quite wonderful as the pill-popping, long-suffering Dean.

The movie is a dark comedy/tragedy with a fresh look at the emptiness behind the picture-perfect homes of suburbia. Highly recommended.
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on 13 February 2009
So, a lot of previous reviews seem to be saying things like "Oh wow, yet another film about upper class Americans etc etc overmedicated etc etc". This seems, to me at least, incredibly stupid. It's almost as if the film is being attacked for choosing that specific subject matter rather than any great fault with the movie itself.

I watched this after seeing Bell's performance in (the phenomenal) Hallam Foe and seriously enjoyed it. The cast play their parts perfectly with both Bell and Ralph Fiennes being particularly great. The plot is brilliantly paced, with the characters developing well over the course of the film.

The only problem I had with Chumscrubber was the ending, which seemed a bit out of place and too happy considering the tone of the rest of the film.

However, that aside, I loved this movie and while I'm sure people will disagree with my opinions I don't really care because this is my review and not theirs!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 27 October 2011
`The Chumscrubber' (awful title, I know, and one that probably has put off a lot of potential interest) takes us a little into `Donnie Darko' territory: American suburbia, death and dysfunctional intergenerational relationships, and youthful antics. This time, the outsider is Dean Stiffle (convincingly played by the brilliant Jamie Bell), except that Dean, whilst the outsider, is actually the only sane person in the neighbourhood.

The rest of the cast are top-notch too, each involved in their own small stories that are all ultimately cleverly moulded together with perfect co-ordination and convincing co-incidence. The tales involve tensions between high-school mates, between neighbours on the estate, within families, between families: it's all very true - and therefore often very funny. The title of the film refers to a supposed computer game played by the kids, but it also acts as a metaphor for the surrounding reality, comprising a society with the wrong priorities in life.

Elements of farce and dark humour keep the viewer smiling and engaged. Dean's father (a perfect William Fichtner) is a psychiatrist more interested in using his son's feelings as source material for his `inspirational' books than in helping his cope; whilst Dean's mother (the consistently excellent Alison Janney) sells vitamins over the phone - "Not just vitamins - they're an entirely new life system". Meanwhile the town's mayor (another Brit in a convincing American role, Ralph Fiennes) sees visions of dolphins in spilt wine, whilst his fiancée (a comic Rita Wilson) worries more about the minutiae of her wedding plans than the state of her husband-to-be's feelings. Chuck in a bunch of teenagers kidnapping the wrong schoolboy, as well as fine performances from the likes of Carrie Ann Moss and Glenn Close, and you can understand the attraction of this left-field production.

The film too has its own tension, between comedy and tragedy, a topic raised in the unadvertised commentary with director Arie Posen and writer Zac Stanford. At some screenings prior to release, some viewers laughed all the way through, but some took what was played out on screen very seriously. They remark that the intention of the film is to be funny - but in a dark way. By the way, this film must have one of the worst director's commentaries I have ever heard, much of it consisting of Arie Posen telling us what we already know, along the lines of "Billy now picks up the cup", as we watch on the screen Billy picking up a cup. But at least we learn that Ralph Fiennes himself painted the dolphins on his fiancée's wall. Other extras comprise some deleted scenes and a ten-minute featurette. One final plus about this movie: for once, James Horner comes up with a great, distinctive, and atmospheric soundtrack.
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on 3 February 2008
The other review that there currently is for this film is absolutely scathing. This film would not be to everyones taste but why not give it at least 2 stars and admit that it did have something. A one star review is enough to cool anyone's interest.
This is a superb film. It is quite stylistic, which is all part of its satirircal look at shallow upper class values and living. It takes a while for the humour to kick-in but with a lot less effort than a lot of art-house cinema it isn't too long before the storyline gets compelling.
Its got a lot of soul too as much as it is satirical as one or two of the many characters find a little redemption while for others their downward spiral is wickedly funny.
Even if this film is doing what has been done before, which I'm not well-versed enough to categorically comment on - there must always be room for an imitation as good as this.
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