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The Chumscrubber
2005 - R - 102 Mins.
Director: Arie Posin
Producer: Lawrence Bender
Written By: Arie Posin, Zac Stanford
Starring: Jamie Bell, Ralph Fiennes, Rita Wilson, Glenn Close, Justin Chatwin,
Review by: Harrison Cheung
Official Site:

Pretend fighting
Dean Stiffle (Jamie Bell) discovers the body of his best friend, Troy, and doesn't bother telling any of the parents in his postcard-perfect upper middle class California suburbia. He knows that these families prefer to go about their lives by ignoring reality entirely. But, when this scandal hits home, will they take notice or will they continue along their merry, self-medicated way?

Marketed as the next ‘Donnie Darko,’ ‘The Chumscrubber’ is a disappointing foray into the alienated youth genre. Problems galore! First of all, the casting is waaay off. Even though the cast’s collective credits should have equated to a killer, must-see, indie paradise drama, there’s a big problem putting together a movie about alienated American youth when half the cast is British, struggling with American accents, and another third is Canadian (Carrie-Anne Moss, Justin Chatwin). No matter the acting competence, the film suffers from a lack of credibility. It’s like Vanilla Ice and his assertions of street cred – sorry, nope, don’t buy it.

Canadian director Arie Posin, takes his first feature project and seems to be trying to ape Tim Burton. The picture perfect neighborhood is like a picture perfect copy from ‘Edward Scissorhands.’ The pacing is awkward, as if the film doesn’t know if it wants to be black comedy or a serious Larry Clark (‘Kids’) drama. Clearly the screenwriter didn’t understand the concept of subtle irony. (The word, Chumscrubber, by the way, refers to a fictional video game rendered with primitive animation that might have been state-of-the-art in the 80s.)

Oddly, there are a number of similarities between ‘The Chumscrubber’ and another failed indie film marketed as the next ‘Donnie Darko’ – ‘The United States of Leland.’ Drugs, a famous author-father who’s writing career is based on the neuroses of his son, a senseless death… hmmm, seems like screenwriters are settling in on a formula for “alienated youth” flicks.

It’s a pleasure to see Jamie Bell all grown up from his smash debut in ‘Billy Elliot.’ He’s gone on to supporting roles in ‘King Kong,’ but ‘The Chumscrubber’ would have been an interesting move for the British actor to work that American accent. He did a much better job in the little-seen indie, ‘Undertow.’ Starring a Dean, Bell throws back the pills like candy but acts as if he’s never touched a drug in his life. “Eat them like they’re M&M’s” must have been the director’s instructions. Bell’s choice for American accent is an odd cross between NuYawk and Keanu. He’s a good actor, but we’re never convinced that he’s an American teen.

Fiennes, as the weird mayor of PerfectVille, is truly creepy. The mayor has visions of dolphins. Whether this is meaningful to the movie, we don’t know. It’s a showcase role for Fiennes to smile like Anthony Perkins at the end of ‘Psycho’ and to waver his accent from clipped English to clipped British. His character has a tactile fetish – he likes to step into liquids. Odd, yes. Does it add anything to the film? No.

The always interesting Glenn Close reprises her performance from ‘The Stepford Wives’ here, as the mother of the teen suicide, Troy.

And Rita Wilson, as the shallow designer overly occupied with her upcoming wedding to notice that her son has been kidnapped, seems to have watched Annette Bening in ‘American Beauty’ to prepare for the part.

Justin Chatwin, the baby-faced actor who played Tom Cruise’s son in ‘War of the Worlds’ isn’t threatening enough of a presence to play the local high school drug dealer/thug. He’s as scary as a Culkin. By the way, what’s an indie film about teen youth without a Culkin? Disappointingly underused, ‘Chumscrubber’ also has Rory Culkin (‘Mean Creek’) as Dean’s kid brother with maybe 2 lines in the entire film.

With its disingenuous script, it is very disappointing that such a wrong collection of talent was wasted on a trite story and a first time director. We all want to see the next ‘Donnie Darko,’ but chances are, movie buffs will have to suffer more duds before the right script meets the right director and the right cast again.
Movie Guru Rating
A train wreck.  So bad some may find it unintentionally entertaining.
  1 out of 5 stars

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