Charlie Bartlett

  • Review Date: February 18, 2008
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 2008
  • Running Time: 97 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Edgy high school comedy better for mature viewers.
  • Review Date: February 18, 2008
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 2008
  • Running Time: 97 minutes





What parents need to know

Positive messages

High school students suffer from depression, egotism, and fear; adults are less than helpful.


Bully menaces Charlie repeatedly. Kids make fight DVDs that show a bully beating Charlie and other students; includes images of bloody faces, kicks, and hits. A girl describes her father's threat to kill himself with a .38. Students' demonstration against surveillance cameras on campus leads to punching and scuffling. Principal holds a gun; Charlie assaults him to stop a seeming suicide, then they talk.


Kisses between the primary couple, some in close-up, lead to Charlie's "first time" (the movie cuts from kissing to a post-sex shot showing his naked chest; he announces his loss of virginity at a party, and kids cheer). Mention of porn on the Internet. Some sexual language ("get your nana pierced," "p---y," "hooch," "vagina").


Several uses of "f--k," as well as "s--t" (some with "bull"), "bitch," "hell," "goddamn," and "ass." Other colorful phrases include "this school blows," "total tool," "I will take a massive steaming dump on your life," "bite me," and "you're a dick."


The Clash poster in teenager's room.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

The movie has a thematic focus on drugs and alcohol: Mother drinks (wine) repeatedly and is sometimes visibly drunk. High school students smoke marijuana (and use slang like "roach"). Charlie is prescribed medication by his psychiatrist (Ritalin, Xanax, Zoloft, Prozac), then starts selling his pills to classmates. Reference to dropping acid; the principal drinks. News that a student overdosed on sedatives casts a pall on the school. Mother refers to college drug use; principal discusses his alcoholism. Frequent cigarette smoking by adults and high school students (Murphey in particular).

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this mature comedy about high school students is full of images of and references to pills, other drugs, beer, and liquor (all of which are used by the students, who also smoke). Characters discuss suicide, depression, and troubled parent-child relationships. There are images of brutal "fight videos" made by the students, a gun wielded by a potential suicide, and a raucous student demonstration. The hero loses his virginity (off screen, after some kissing scenes), and there's some strong language, including "f--k."

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

Angry at his absent father and alcoholic mother, the hero of CHARLIE BARTLETT looks for ways to act out. When he's expelled from yet another prep school for forging IDs, Charlie (Anton Yelchin) lands at a public school, where he becomes popular when he starts dispensing advice and drugs to his classmates, repurposing the medications (Ritalin, Xanax, Prozac) prescribed by his own doctor and listening to fretful teens in the faux confessionals of the boys' room stalls. While Charlie feels increasingly comfortable with school bully Murphey (Tyler Hilton) and his most enthusiastic "client," the depressed Kip (Mark Rendall), it's clear that he'll eventually need to come to terms with his choices. He gets precious little help from his mother, Marilyn (Hope Davis), and so seeks instruction and solace elsewhere -- namely, his new principal, the lonely, approval-seeking Mr. Gardner (Robert Downey Jr.), and his beautiful, rebel-ready daughter, Susan (Kat Dennings).

Is it any good?


Yet another movie-styled high school smirker, Charlie is surely clever, but he's also unoriginal. While he takes his search for identity/family/community/popularity to topical extremes (selling pills, offering psychobabbley counsel, and filming homemade fight videos), he follows a familiar coming-of-age course that's better suited for adult viewers familiar with his cinematic precursors than those currently in the throes of high school themselves. The contrivance of Charlie's story, the convenient ineptness of his mother, and the rallying of his peers don't so much extol the virtues of public education -- or even the wondrous discoveries of adolescence -- as they rehearse clichés (will Charlie lose his virginity as he so desires? Guess!).

This isn't to say that particular moments in the film don't resonate with a kind of energy or wit (particularly the featuring Downey, who brings a perfect pitch of weariness, frustration, and hope to his exchanges with the students). But as Charlie must learn his own limits and the value of being "himself," the film turns increasingly predictable.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the movie's messages about our "fast-fix" culture, in which drugs are prescribed to smooth over emotional or social problems. Do you agree with the statements the film is making? Which parts do you think are exaggerated for humor? Families can also discuss the tensions between Charlie and his parents. How does the principal become a surrogate father? How could the characters -- both kid and adult -- be more supportive and smart in dealing with each other?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:February 21, 2008
DVD release date:June 23, 2008
Cast:Anton Yelchin, Hope Davis, Robert Downey Jr.
Director:Jon Poll
Run time:97 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:language, drug content and brief nudity.

This review of Charlie Bartlett was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 16 years old Written bythefalconater January 3, 2011

it's appropriate parents, so chill out

I honestly hate it when adults say movies such as this aren't age appropriate for teenagers. There is absolutely nothing in this movie that any highschooler hasn't seen or been exposed to before. Overall I felt like this movie was fantastic. The characters were well-developed and interesting and the story was unique. If you are debating on whether to watch this or not, GO FOR IT. You won't be at all sorry you did.
What other families should know
Great messages
Teen, 16 years old Written bycaptain8ball September 4, 2009
SM, if you say that this movie is OFF for anyone under 18 then you are obviously ignorant of high school life. Do you even have a teenage child? This movie was a masterpiece dramedy. Yes, i will admit that there were some parts that may be inappropriate but I can almost 100% assure you that EVERY teenager hears and probably talks about these things every single day at school. I think anyone in high school could see this movie and should. It deals with some really important issues and it shows how people handle them..maybe not always in a good way..but they learn from their mistakes. I am 16 and I watched this movie with my mom. My mom is very iffy about watching movies and she hates the "f" word and drugs and there was not that much "f" word use in this movie anyway and the parts with drugs weren't presented as kids using them (at least the prescription drugs) to get high. The kids truly needed help and they were too scared to go to their judgmental parents to ask for it (which i'm sorry to say is a big problem today). If you are in high school, see this movie, it will make you think about your life in a positive way.
Adult Written bystacymavros April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age


Not, not, not for anyone under 18...interesting and entertaining for adults. Acting was very good all around--Robery Downey Jr is certainly back--he's fantastic--all the younger actors were spot on. Storyline is both funny and serious. Solid but no award winning here. Violence, sex, drug use....again, this one is NOT FOR KIDS.


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