The Chumscrubber

"Bad"

The Chumscrubber Review


The starry-eyed cross-breed of American Beauty and Donnie Darko, here comes The Chumscrubber, another self-righteous satire on self-absorbed parents and their estranged offspring. With the over-extended reach of a callow teenager, it fails to conquer its peaks of social relevancy. But it does have a titular headless video-game anti-hero, who, like the film's residents, uses his head as a weapon and presides over the film like a post-apocalyptic master-of-ceremonies.

A facetious voice-over -- "This was the best of all possible worlds" -- introduces brooding loner Dean Stiffle (Jamie Bell of Billy Elliot), a teen caught between dueling self-helper parents, who's soon to discover his dead friend Troy (Josh Janowicz) behind the house of his party-throwing mother, Carrie (Glenn Close). Weeks later, Dean's best-selling psychiatrist-author father, Bill (William Fichtner), therapy-talks Dean sick about his lack of grief. Dad's cure: More of the same pharmaceuticals Dean's school's already drowning in.

At school, primo-punk Billy (Justin Chatwin), girlfriend Crystal (Camilla Belle), and toady Lee (Lou Taylor Pucci) demand Dean produce the late Troy's secret drug stash, aiming to kidnap his younger brother Charlie (Rory Culkin) as incentive. But, dimwits they are, they nab a different Charlie (Thomas Curtis), son of designer Terri Bratley (Rita Wilson), a woman too busy with her impending nuptials to spacey mayor Michael (Ralph Fiennes) to notice him missing.

Billy threatens to decapitate Charlie if Dean doesn't come through. Then, a drug mix-up has Dean hauled in by cop Lou (John Heard). Unable to convince anyone of the truth, Dean flips out, suffering visions of Troy as the vengeful "Chumscrubber." Finally, Dean saves Charlie, his efforts culminating in a community-focusing climax.

Touted as boldly original, first-time director Arie Posin's film is a mostly black & white world, propelled by the standard teen angst, seen through the shell-shocked eyes of Dean, a Generation-X (-box) James Dean incarnation at war with the usual everything. Uninspired, but simplistic. The ubiquity of Chum's free-flowing drugs, stilted mores, and backward priorities are a given, synonymous with "adult." From that indoctrination, we're to welcome its petitions for "entire life system" change. And we do... in the Chumscrubber universe. It's the rules. "Conjuring" escapes is the only hope... to somewhere else, or into "someone else" (like, oh, a dolphin-fetishist).

Magic, however, isn't what the film's ingredients are calling for. They need heart. The admirable acting ensemble and the myriad symbolisms--"dead-end" cul-de-sac lives, routine-escaping "happy accidents," "feel-good" pick-me-ups, majestic dolphins (not to mention the "bigger picture" organization of apparent chaos, far enough removed) -- they make for formidable stuff. But, lacking a soulful story, they're all dressed up with no place to go.

Chumscrubber is one of those films that takes refuge in pop-spiritualisms, like "there are no accidents," feeling free to skewer at will parent-child relations, grownups, and life in general. Spiteful at heart, the expression of its core sentiments -- the rage of abandoned children, the despair of deadened adults -- is frustrated by a nihilistic life-view borrowed from its nogginless title avenger. As such, there's not a parent in the film that isn't an egotistical moron. And if humanity exists in any of them, it's invariably to be kindled by some sacred interaction with adolescents or animal deities. Nothing against kids or nature. It's the sermonizing (in the guise of intimate interchange) that's insufferable.

Posin's falling just shy of all-out self-parody here, while overshooting his dramatic targets. Films like American Beauty walk a fine line between drama and satire, but Chum vacillates between them. It's an adolescent; it can't commit. And its gleeful disaffection deflates every intended epiphany or redemption. Thusly, when a distraught Dean reaches for a person over a pill, it's undercut by the whom he reaches for (an argument can be made for the pill). Worse yet, that scene's sandwiched between two other smug ones of Dean lesson-teaching Lou and Carrie, each in turn. Yeah, yeah, we all can learn from children. But preacher children (or directors) are a pain in the bum.

Chum's vanity undermines the grave significance of its archetypal plea "Don't ignore me," and its lust for any stimulation, even murder. There are glimmers of value -- e.g., Carrie in silent scream; Dean on how to explain Charlie going unmissed -- but, overall, the film remains as complacent as its Hillside denizens, unfortunately spawning the very mindset it rails against.

There's something very unctuous running beneath Chumscrubber's pretense of compassion and redemption -- something like, "Trust no one over 18!" Or maybe it's "chum." After all, the word can be used to refer to a foul mix of fish oil and blood used to attract ocean predators. So there you have it. The dolphin's really a shark in disguise.

Chum: It's what's for dinner.



The Chumscrubber

Facts and Figures

Run time: 108 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 5th October 2006

Distributed by: Picturehouse

Production compaines: El Camino Pictures, Go Fish Pictures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 1.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 35%
Fresh: 21 Rotten: 39

IMDB: 7.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Arie Posin

Starring: as Dean, as Crystal, as Billy, as Carrie Johnson, Kathi Copeland as Parent #1, as Charlie Stiffle, Thomas Curtis as Charlie Bratley, as Mr Peck, David Ellison as Student #1, as Mr. Bill Stiffle, as Mayor Michael Ebbs, Richard Gleason as Parent #2, as Mrs. Parker, as Officer Lou Bratley, Susan Hegarty as Aide to Mayor Ebbs, as Boutique Owner, as Mr. Parker, as Allie Stiffle, Josh Janowicz as Troy, as Student #2, as Jerri Falls, Jeff Parise as Aide to Mayor Ebbs, as Lee, Laura Shanahan as Party Goer #1, Scott Spiro as Party Goer #2, Max Van Ville as Student #3, as Terri Bratley

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

After the thunderous reception for J.J. Abrams' Episode VII: The Force Awakens two years ago,...

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Like the 2015 original, this comedy plays merrily with cliches to tell a silly story...

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

There's a somewhat contrived jauntiness to this blending of fact and fiction that may leave...

Ferdinand Movie Review

Ferdinand Movie Review

This animated comedy adventure is based on the beloved children's book, which was published in...

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Director Dave McCary makes a superb feature debut with this offbeat black comedy, which explores...

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

A dramatisation of the real-life clash between tennis icons Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs,...

Shot Caller Movie Review

Shot Caller Movie Review

There isn't much subtlety to this prison thriller, but it's edgy enough to hold the...

Advertisement
The Disaster Artist Movie Review

The Disaster Artist Movie Review

A hilariously outrageous story based on real events, this film recounts the making of the...

Stronger Movie Review

Stronger Movie Review

Based on a true story about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, this looks like one...

Only the Brave Movie Review

Only the Brave Movie Review

Based on a genuinely moving true story, this film undercuts the realism by pushing its...

Wonder Movie Review

Wonder Movie Review

This film may be based on RJ Palacio's fictional bestseller, but it approaches its story...

Happy End  Movie Review

Happy End Movie Review

Austrian auteur Michael Haneke isn't known for his light touch, but rather for hard-hitting, award-winning...

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Seemingly from out of nowhere, this film generates perhaps the biggest smile of any movie...

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

A Victorian thriller with rather heavy echoes of Jack the Ripper, this film struggles to...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.