Film review – The Wackness (2008)

It’s the summer of 1994 in New York and Luke Shapiro (Josh Peck from Nickelodeon’s family show Drake and Josh) has finished his final year at school. While most of his classmates have left the city for holidays, Luke is left behind to sell and smoke marijuana. Depressed, lonely and sexually frustrated, Luke forms an unlikely friendship with one of his regular customers – Dr. Squires (Ben Kingsley), who exchanges therapy sessions for dope.

The mid-90s setting is fitting considering that the The Wackness evokes the type of American independent film that thrived at the time. Director/writer Jonathan Levine, who previously directed the teen-slasher film All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, does a marvellous job in capturing the sense of time and place. You can feel the summer heat radiating from the screen and the early 90s hip-hop soundtrack perfectly enhances the laid back mood.

Peck is wonderful as Luke, with his street smarts and adolescent melancholy contrasting beautifully with the jaded yet manic energy that Kingsley brings to Dr. Squires. Perhaps unfocused at times, The Wackness is an enjoyable coming of age film about embracing the dopeness (good) over the wackness (bad).

Originally appeared in The Big Issue, No. 317, 2008

© Thomas Caldwell, 2008