Starring Madeline Carroll, Callan McAuliffe, Rebecca De Mornay, Anthony Edwards, John Mahoney, Penelope Ann Miller, Aidan Quinn, Kevin Weisman, Morgan Lily, Ryan Ketzner, Cody Horn, Michael Christopher Bolten, Shane Harper, Ashley Taylor, Israel Broussard, Stefanie Scott and Jake Reiner.
Screenplay by Rob Reiner & Andrew Scheinman.
Directed by Rob Reiner.
Distributed by Warner Bros. 90 minutes. Rated PG.
I can see why Rob Reiner would want to return to the pre-Beatles 60s. Beyond growing up in the decade, the era was also the subject of one of his early classic films – Stand by Me – during a decade-long streak when the man was quite possibly the best, most diverse popular director working in film.
The movies he made between 1983 and 1992 included This Is Spinal Tap, The Sure Thing, Stand by Me, The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally, Misery and A Few Good Men. Every single one was very good to great, with a few which might just vie for all-time classic status. (Personally, The Sure Thing is my favorite movie ever – and that was by far the least well known of that string of movies.)
In the 90s, Reiner lost the zeitgeist though, hitting a historic bad streak. After A Few Good Men (1992) nearly every film he made for the next decade was god-awful – North, The Story of Us, Ghosts of Mississippi and Alex & Emma. Only the wonderful The American President stood out as an oasis of the skillful filmmaking which Reiner used to be able to summon up at will.
In the last several years, Reiner has made some halting steps back towards respectability. Rumor Has It and The Bucket List were far from great movies, however each had a certain amount of charm and craft – and The Bucket List was his first popular hit in over a decade.
Flipped seems like an odd choice to follow up that renewed box office cachet – it is a small nostalgic comedy/drama with no real big name actors. (Rebecca DeMornay, Anthony Edwards, John Mahoney and Aidan Quinn are all fine character actors at this point of their careers, but none could exactly be called a star.) And, in fact, the movie sank without a trace in the theaters this summer after a brief run.
However, perhaps it deserves another chance now that it is getting a video release.
As I said before, to a certain extent, Flipped is a return home for Reiner. Back to the nostalgic 50s coming-of-age milieu which powered Stand by Me, complete with a classic doo wop soundtrack. (The film actually takes place in 1963, the sociological if not chronological end of the 50s, right before the Beatles, Vietnam, the Kennedy assassination and hippies forever changed the era). Plus as his co-writer he tapped Andrew Scheinman, who produced most of Reiner’s glory days movies starting with The Sure Thing (though Scheinman had only co-written one of Reiner’s films – the awful North). Hell, even Sure Thing supporting actor Edwards returns in a supporting role.
Of course, Flipped does not come from the same strong source material. Stand by Me was based on a wonderful Stephen King novella called The Body. The novel which inspired this film by Wendelin Van Draanen is significantly more obscure – and probably for good reason.
The young adult novel has also been significantly changed for the movie – in fact the book takes place in the early 2000s. However, the basic storyline – a look at a childhood romance from both points of view – is pretty universal and timeless.
Flipped is also a more romanticized look at the time than Stand by Me – there is a reason this film is rated PG when that one was R. That one was about learning about life by first experiencing death, this one is about learning about life by first experiencing love.
Still, while Flipped is not as good a movie as Stand by Me, it does have a certain sweetness and charm which makes it easier to overlook some of the film’s flaws. Like Reiner’s last two movies, Flipped is only fairly good, but it does have quality stuff enough going for it to warrant a viewing.
A seven year old a little boy named Bryce moves in next door to Juli, a precocious little girl his age. She immediately falls in seven-year-old love with him – he immediately decides she has cooties. The film follows the children into their early teens where the kids’ original feelings shift significantly.
Callan McAuliffe plays Bryce as a teen and Madeline Carroll is Juli. (Honestly, the names don’t sound particularly 60s – Juli would be spelled Julie and Bryce did not really become a common name until the 80s.) Both young actors are quite good – natural in a way that not all kids can pull off on film.
The film also spends a lot of time on their families – veering occasionally into melodrama, but often capturing family dynamics.
Flipped is a very small movie. It is no great shock that it was overwhelmed by the flashier competition at the cineplexes this summer. However, it is perfectly sized for television consumption. I could see this film becoming a word-of-mouth success. It’s not for everyone, but I can see the people who do connect with the film becoming passionate about it.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2010 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: December 3, 2010.