The Wackness

The Wackness is one of those yearning, semi-autobiographical films about high school that seems to think it’s way more important than it actually is.

Protagonist Luke Shapiro (Josh Peck) is a mouth-breathing, hip-hop lover in Manhattan circa 1994. Luke deals pot and trades some to Dr. Squires (Ben Kingsley) for free therapy. See, Luke is depressed because, uh, his parents fight and he’s a virgin. The Wackness is a pretty lame, yet strangely endearing film. Peck makes for a fantastically annoying and whiney protagonist, and his lengthy deflowering scenes are almost unwatchable. Also, the nostalgia for New York in 1994 feels forced and gimmicky.

Yet The Wackness is worth watching for one reason: Ben Kingsley. It’s time to officially recognize Kingsley as one of the great chameleonic actors of all time. He’s played Gandhi, a psychopathic British gangster (Sexy Beast), an exiled Iranian general (House of Sand and Fog), and now a hard-partying, old hippie psychiatrist. His Dr. Squires is clearly intended for laughs, but Kingsley brings a cracked pathos and realism to his charming burnout. B-

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