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Arts & Culture

The Wackness Crosses the Generation Gap

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The Wackness appeals to KPBS' Teen Critic (Sony Pictures Classics)

By Candace Kavanagh

Pot movies have been a part of the film culture for decades. Of course in earlier years they were a little more ambiguous about it than these days with movies like Pineapple Express and Harold and Kumar supporting our green little plant friend. Now The Wackness (opened July 11 at Landmark's Hillcrest Cinemas) can be added to this legacy -- although it is lacking any colorful scenes of flying or adventurous trips to famous fast food joints. Instead The Wackness looks a little deeper as it follows a pot dealer, Luke Shapiro (played by Josh Peck of Drake and Josh ). Yes I know, I was surprised as well. Luke & is beginning his first summer as a high school graduate. As he looks down from a balcony at one of his client's parties -- watching all the people he had gone to school with for four years and not knowing a single one of them -- he realizes that he is virtually alone in this world. His only "friend" is his almost insane psychiatrist, played by Ben Kingsley, who accepts weed as a payment.

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This movie takes us through the sincere journey of two unlikely friends finding salvation in each other. With the Doc teaching Luke about women, and Luke saving the Doc from himself and the illusion of his life being over. Accompanied by tales of finding first loves and failing at old ones, the Doc finds that it's not the end of the world. As we see Dr. Squires falling out of love with his wife, played by Famke Jansen, and Luke falling in love with Doc's step-daughter, played by Juno's Olivia Thirlby, you realize how hard it was for any of us the first or third time around in this crazy thing we call love, and how it feels as if it's the end of our lives. But of course they don't do this without giving us a real sense of hope in the end for both of our heroes.

And then of course, what is an indie film without a few stabs at politics. This movie set in New York in 1994, Rudolph Giuliani plays the part of a faceless villain named Party Pooper. So the audience gets a couple of laughs about the trouble with the cops that the Doc and Luke face as lovers of weed. But of course like the drugs, this political context is simple background music that gives humor to the almost heartbreaking coming of age story for both our heroes.

The Wackness (rated R for pervasive drug use, language and some sexuality) may follow the formula of recent "original" films, using the freedom of sex scenes and drug use to qualify themselves as "different," but it still gives you a feeling of connection that most mainstream films lack. This movies sucks you into its world and lets you resonate in it. It crosses the generation gap, not subtly, but definitely effectively. So this movie has found a place in my heart and I expect will find a place many other hearts as well. But if you expect a Cheech and Chong adventure with the mention of weed, this movie will leave you wanting.

-- Candace Kavanagh just graduated from Mount Miguel High School. She spends her life absorbing celluloid images. She loves every type of film from so-called "chick flicks" such as My Fair Lady and Legally Blonde, to mind bending thrillers like Mulholland Drive and Hard Candy -- with every zombie movie, action flick, musical, and comedy in between.