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Awesome: 27.03%
Worth A Look56.76%
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2 reviews, 25 user ratings

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Mean Creek
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by EricDSnider

"A mostly believable, suspenseful story of misbegotten youth."
4 stars

For all the movies that have been made about teenagers, and even about misguided teenagers with inattentive parents specifically, few have captured kids' interpersonal relationships as insightfully and accurately as Jacob Estes' debut feature "Mean Creek."

There are six kids here, and they all relate to each other in different ways, representing numerous levels of the middle and high school pecking orders. It is Kid #1's connection with the other five that is most critical to the story, but Estes doesn't stop there. He also shows us how Kid #3 doesn't quite fit with his buddies #4 and 5, and how Kid #2 and Kid #6 resent Kid #4, and so on. What we've got ourselves here is a microcosm.

Set in rural Oregon, the story begins with young Sam (Rory Culkin), a boy of about 12 who is tormented regularly by George (Joshua Peck), an overweight, obnoxious boy with no friends who has adopted the title of school bully for himself. Sam's protective older brother Rocky (Trevor Morgan) learns of this and alerts his buddies, Marty (Scott Mechlowicz) and Clyde (Ryan Kelley). Marty, who leads the trio of older boys, devises a plan to get revenge on George, adhering to good-hearted Sam's rule that "we want to hurt him without really hurting him." Clyde, who won't smoke pot and is often disregarded by Marty and Rocky, goes along with it because going along with things is what he does.

The plan -- which we do not learn immediately -- involves a river-rafting trip on a Saturday afternoon. George is invited on the pretense that, despite the torture, Sam actually likes him and wants to be friends. Sam's soon-to-be girlfriend Millie (Carly Schroeder) comes along, too, to provide femininity and conscience.

Almost at once, we feel sorry for George. He simply wants to be liked, and when his forceful personality turns people off rather than winning them over, he resorts to brutality as a defense mechanism. Sam, guided by Millie, wants to call the humiliation plan off. But Marty -- who has a brief but telling scene with his older, abusive brother (Brandon Williams) -- is determined to go through with it. The heated discussion among the six kids on the river leads to unfortunate events with dire consequences, which I will not spoil for you here.

It is essentially a morality play, a melodrama designed to teach lessons and suggest proper courses of action. What makes it compelling, even frightening, is the realization that what's "right" is so often contrary to human nature. The characters' natural reactions are completely sympathetic and sometimes completely immoral, too.

I like all of the performances -- Rory Culkin's sweet Sam, Ryan Kelley's meek Clyde, Scott Mechlowicz's macho, insecure Marty, and so on. I'm not sure I believe everything that occurs in the film, but I definitely buy the way things turn out in the end. If this smart, psychologically suspenseful film is any indication, Jacob Estes is a new voice worth listening to.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=8545&reviewer=247
originally posted: 02/13/04 20:25:13
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Los Angeles Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Los Angeles Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Leeds Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Leeds Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Sydney Film Festival For more in the 2005 Sydney Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

7/16/21 Jack Sommersby Specious and overrated. 2 stars
7/25/18 morris campbell not bad but seen this type of flick before 4 stars
1/05/14 Quigley One of the most underrated movies out there. See this movie, people. 5 stars
11/05/07 mb Dog Breath Movie 1 stars
6/22/06 Ed Viezca Although the ending is an obvious given, it still leaves you satisfied. 4 stars
6/14/06 William Goss Feels like a staged scenario, loaded with portent and dread, but solid performances around. 3 stars
10/11/05 Vince Good script, believable story... I agree with the end being abrupt though 4 stars
10/09/05 Del A little shaky on filling the plot holes, great moral tale. 3 stars
10/04/05 Jesse Taylor Seen the story before, yet still very intriguing. 4 stars
5/27/05 JFK great script and acting 4 stars
3/21/05 Seanboy The performances alone are worth the reccomendation,this movie stays in your conscience 5 stars
2/18/05 Captain Craig how do they get money to make worthless films like this? 1 stars
2/11/05 Tom Gallagher the ending was a little abrupt. i would have liked to find out what happened to the kids. 4 stars
2/01/05 Jeff Anderson A GREAT FILM! Josh Peck gives an amazing, brilliant performance. tomandandy's score ROCKS!! 5 stars
1/21/05 Darryl Intense, well acted, shocking at times. It really held my attention! 5 stars
1/13/05 Nick Boyd One of the best teen movies ever made! 5 stars
10/17/04 jcjs dandy, humdinger, special 5 stars
9/26/04 Elizabeth Uniformly marvelous performances, quietly powerful without overblown hysterics. 4 stars
8/28/04 David awesome everything. way to go film makers! We need more films of this nature and caliber! 5 stars
8/10/04 FRANCINE This is a very good movie. I think the ending could have been better, was it over ? 4 stars
8/05/04 Linda Z Pretentious - good actors, directed well in an unbelievable script with many flaws 3 stars
4/21/04 Vivian integrity and weight - this is a real movie 5 stars
2/29/04 Gretchen Lieberum A thoughtful, provocative film about how we navigate very difficult moral landscapes 5 stars
2/19/04 James Tanner Excellent 5 stars
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  20-Aug-2004 (R)
  DVD: 25-Jan-2005



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