What parents need to know
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?