There were several things that ran through my head as I watched this surprisingly charming movie about the foibles of a New York City pot dealer as comes to age during the summer of 1994.
First and foremost, how is it possible that 1994 looks ancient in this movie? Incredibly, The Wackness’ costume director probably had to do research as the styles seem completely antiquated and the vernacular is laughable. However, I was not a teenager in the mid-90s and so I have no idea if someone would actually say “I just look at the dopeness, but you just look at the wackness.” I do remember the word dope being thrown around quite a bit by kids that had probably never even heard of a neurotransmitter before. At least mix tapes are still a nice thing to make for someone. I mean, they are, right?
Secondly, Mary-Kate Olsen needs to get her life back in order. Admittedly, she was the reason I watched this movie (I have an unhealthy obsession with Full House). However, Olsen gave the worst performance in the entire movie and maybe of her entire career and yes, I have seen New York Minute. Part of the problem was that her character served no purpose other than to make out with Ben Kingsley and even that scene looked staged. SIDEBAR: Somewhere along the line, Mary-Kate decided it would be a good idea to drop out of school and be a rich brat who would just wear a long button-down men’s shirt and no pants outside every day (even in the subzero temperatures of New York) and think that was fashionable. Maybe that same logic led her to believe that speaking in airy tones and waving her arms around like she was at Woodstock and dressing in clothes that are two sizes too big could be construed as acting, but I am here to tell her it is not. She needs to stop picking roles that encourage her penchant for dressing and acting like a wood nymph and do something that will actually stretch her acting boundaries. Also, for the love of God, you are worth a billion dollars; wash your hair! END SIDEBAR
Third, I was thinking of how much of a disaster this movie would have been had Josh Peck not been as good of a lead actor as he was. He hit every note right as an outsider who gets to spend a few glorious months with someone that makes him feel included. The best part is that Peck makes Luke Shapiro into a dynamic character who visibly changes from the beginning of the movie as he sits on the rooftop ledge watching his classmates’ graduation party to the final scene with Stephanie in the elevator. Shapiro was surrounded by a world full of assholes, and it was refreshing to watch him refrain from joining the list. SIDEBAR #2: Each character a critic comments on is a window into the critic’s own personality, because every opinion he has on every movie is influenced by whether he can find something that identifies with the experiences in his personal repetoire. Thus, every review is like revealing a little part of the soul. Read into that however you desire. END SIDEBAR
And my last point before wrapping up: Ben Kingsley is very versatile. One needs only to take a look at a map of the roles he has played to see that he can morph into any nationality and any accent with ease. Certainly, as evidenced by this movie, he can morph into Harvey Keitel, which begs the question…if you are going to do his hair like Harvey Keitel and make him act like Harvey Keitel, why not just get Harvey Keitel?