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Overall Rating

Awesome: 26.67%
Worth A Look43.33%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 23.33%
Total Crap: 6.67%

3 reviews, 12 user ratings

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Chumscrubber, The
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by Chris Parry

"A new concept in suburban satire. Which is a new concept in itself."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2005 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL: If you've been paying any attention at all to the indie film industry over the last twenty years, you'll already be aware that the horrors of suburbia have been the basis of hundreds of American films. Clerks, SubUrbia, Donnie Darko, Lawn Dogs, Slacker, American Beauty, The Safety of Objects, the list goes on and on and on. So with that in mind, how does a rookie director and an up'n'coming screenwriter put together a film that follows the same theme, but tackles it in a completely different way? If you're Arie Posin and Zac Stanford, you make a film so rife with suburban horrors that you're nearly in the realm of the unreal, but anchor it with the kind of biting satire and social commentary that leaves an audience clearing out the medicine cabinet when they get home.

Dean (Billy Elliott's Jaime Bell) is a regular kid trying to cope with the fact that he's not one of the perfect few. And coping becomes a lot harder when he walks in on his best and only friend's successful suicide. Dean begins to lose it entirely as a group of bullying kids at school decide to blackmail him into stealing his ex-friend's drug stash for them, by kidnapping his little brother. Dean should be terrified by this news, but when he sees his brother sitting on the couch playing a computer game - The Chumscrubber - he realizes that the bullies have the wrong kid. A standoff ensues.

That, in itself, should be ground for the neighborhood parents to freak out. A child kidnapped, drugs being sold in schools, teenagers walking in and out of each others' homes, ridiculing parents and doing as they please... but the parents in suburbia aren't as attentive as they used to be. In fact, the kidnapped child in question is assumed to be just "off galivanting" when he doesn't answer his parents' call to his room, and when Dean tries to explain to the local Chief of Police what has happened, he's not only not believed, but he's fed pills to 'balance' him.

This monumental ignorance on the part of the average American parent, this lack of care for what their kids are up to, this complete lack of respect on both sides of the equation is mercilessly displayed in The Chumscrubber, with a cavalcade of stars on hand to ensure that the performances are as amazing as the screenplay is. Rita Wilson, Ralph Fiennes, Glenn Close, Carrie Anne Moss, Alison Janney - the list goes on - deliver powerhouse performances (especially Fiennes, Bell and Close) that occasionally cross the line into fantasy a little too far, but for the most part kick your ass.

The Chumscrubber (they'll have to change that title if they want to sell tickets) is a film that requires a lot of thought to get the most out of, but it isn't a perfect film in any respect. Made on a disarmingly low budget of only $5m, the flick does show its seams when it tries to turn a little too far in on itself, and the occasional jumping into video game mode, while necessary for symbolic purposes, really rips you out of the story whenever it occurs.

On the other hand, lead actor Jamie Bell, who is working extremely hard to shed the Billy Elliott tag, continues that effort with a distinctly un-British turn as the ultimate depressed teenager. His performance keeps a handle on what could easily have been melodramatic fare, and the assured direction of first time helmer Arie Posin gives him all the room he needs to conjure up a full, entirely real, all-too-empathetic character.

In highlighting society's ever-growing dependence on chemicals to keep our brains 'balanced', The Chumscrubber will hit a chord with audiences who have jars of pills, capsules, vitamins and sedatives at home. As you watch parents shoving pills down their childrens' throats, then jamming them down themselves, and then you see how those sedated parents become almost immune to the events happening around them, you realize that it's YOU that is being criticized by the filmmaker, and that's a brave line to shoot for. Thankfully, it's done so well that you'd be hard pressed to feel slighted by the end of the film.

To be honest, I loved The Chumscrubber, and then I didn't like it, only for it to then catch up with me again, before disappointing me. It's not that the film sucked anywhere, or that any element was lacking (James Horner's score is a real toe-tapper), but more that the film was trying to do so much at once that inevitably certain scenes dragged or repeated themselves. Thankfully, a cracking last twenty minutes gives the film the kind of gutpunch finish required to make those earlier bumps irrelevant. One of the better films seen at this year's Sundance fest, Chumscrubber is worth looking out for.

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originally posted: 01/26/05 21:31:18
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

7/17/11 Josie Cotton is a goddess Too real to be 'enjoyable,' however, it is refreshing to hear the truth. 5 stars
8/22/07 Colleen I really liked it.Justin Chatwin is so hot! 5 stars
7/29/07 someone great movie i highly recomd to watch it other comments saying its bad is a lie 5 stars
7/06/07 fools♫gold Strangely, I could agree to ANY rating for this movie. 5 stars
2/19/07 Scully I couldn't buy any of it. The characters need a lot of work. 2 stars
2/17/07 tyrone i like alot 4 stars
11/28/06 igor well done! 5 stars
7/23/06 Kurt Koehler Loved it! 5 stars
4/08/06 joe Was trying way too hard. They used their money to make it more interesting. 1 stars
2/09/06 Rachel Grayner It is the perfect satire on middle-class suburbia 5 stars
8/06/05 graeme worst movie i've ever sat threw and i was getting paid. 1 stars
1/29/05 Orly Despacio I loved it...absolutely fresh and insightful! 5 stars
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  05-Aug-2005 (R)
  DVD: 10-Jan-2006



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