The Wackness Movie Poster Image

The Wackness



Bittersweet coming-of-age pic about a pot dealer.
  • Review Date: July 10, 2008
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2008
  • Running Time: 110 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

A teen tries to help his parents with the money he earns selling drugs. Compared to the male protagonist, a teen girl is depicted as unapologetically sexually experienced.


A character tries to commit suicide a couple of times; a wife scratches her husband's face; a drug dealer's bodyguards sport machine guns; a man says he's in jail for gruesomely hurting his wife.


Several love scenes, especially when Luke attempts to lose his virginity to Stephanie. In one scene, a married couple has sex while watching porn (a topless woman is shown moaning on a hotel television). Luke's naked rear is shown during one shower-based love scene. An underage girl makes out with an older man. Dr. Squires talks a lot about sex and advises Luke to "get laid."


Standard R-rated language -- "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "p---y," "dick," etc. -- is used throughout the film.


No overt products (unless you count marijuana), but there are many references to musicians like Notorious B.I.G., A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Kurt Cobain, Pearl Jam, and other early-'90s artists.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Near-constant marijuana use and dealing, including scenes and discussions of joints, blunts, bongs, etc. There's a great deal of underage drinking and cigarette smoking as well, plus a couple of scenes of people snorting or pill-popping prescription drugs like Ritalin and Valium.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that although this movie stars Josh Peck from the wildly popular sitcom Drake and Josh, it's definitely not aimed at the Nickelodeon show's tween fan base. The film centers around an awkward high school senior who's a marijuana dealer. Like many coming-of-age-stories, it focuses on the mature themes of burgeoning sexuality (including several love scenes, jokes about virginity, and glimpses of a naked backside and breasts), drug use (many, many shots of teens and adults smoking pot), and first love. There's also a fair amount of drinking and cigarette smoking among 18- to 20-year-olds.

What's the story?

It's New York City in the summer of 1994, and lonely pot dealer Luke Shapiro (Josh Peck, in a slightly startling departure from Drake and Josh) has just graduated from high school. He's friendless except for his regular customers, particularly Dr. Jeff Squires (Ben Kingsley), a psychiatrist who barters therapy for marijuana. Luke is focused on two things: falling for the doctor's stepdaughter Stephanie (Olivia Thirlby, the best friend from Juno), and selling enough dope to keep his family from being evicted.

Is it any good?


Peck, who does an amazing job shedding all remnants of his Nickelodeon alter ego, is perfectly cast as "the most popular of the unpopular" kids -- the kind of teen who only finds out about a cool graduation party because the host pages him for drugs. Kingsley infuses his character with enough humor to be sympathetic, rather than just pathetic. The middle-aged shrink and teen dealer make a charming odd couple as they make each other mix tapes (Notorious B.I.G. and A Tribe Called Quest on one, David Bowie and Brahms on the other), sell weed out of an ice-cream cooler, and cruise for girls.

With compelling lead characters, a notable hip-hop soundtrack, and charming supporting performances by Mary-Kate Olsen, Jane Adams, and Method-Man, director Jonathan Levine's semi-autobiographical drama explores the universal themes of late adolescence without devolving into overly sentimental cliches. Those who were on the verge of adulthood in the early '90s will especially appreciate the cultural references in this sweet portrayal of that pivotal summer between high school and college.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about two of the film's messages -- that adolescence is a time to take risks and "make a mess out of life" and that the decisions you make in your youth shape your adult life. Why does Dr. Squires give Josh conflicting advice? What are the universal themes of this story? How are Stephanie's and Luke's characters nontraditional when it comes to teen relationships?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:July 11, 2008
DVD release date:January 5, 2009
Cast:Ben Kingsley, Josh Peck, Olivia Thirlby
Director:Jonathan Levine
Studio:Sony Pictures Classics
Run time:110 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:pervasive drug use, language and some sexuality.

This review of The Wackness was written by

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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, 14 years old Written byKrozo April 9, 2008

Familiar coming of age genre told with magnificent performances.

I would say that this movie is appropriate for everyone 15 and up due to mature thematic material involving non-stop drug content and sexuality. The worst is a where Luke's (Josh Peck) sex scene is alternated with Dr. Squires's (Ben Kingsely) sex scene. Dr. Squires's is watching a pornographic video (breast nudity) while having sex with his wife. Drug-dealing and use is non-stop throughout the entire movie. I just love how apparently Smart People is rated 16 on CommonSense but The Wackness is 15. I would say that this movie is appropriate for a fifteen year old, but if they are saying that Smart People is a 16, then The Wackness should be a 25.
Teen, 13 years old Written bySaintjimmy October 2, 2009

Better for 15 and up

My parents rented this movie to watch and I'm only 12. It was definetly NOT for a child my age. I can handle language amd the drug scenes. But the sex was a little off for me. Mostly when it showed the womens breast in the porn....
Teen, 13 years old Written byBestMovieEver August 31, 2009


ONE OF MY ALLTIME FAVS! Sex is a little iffy...drugs are near constant....language is fine.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Great messages
Great role models


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