Rich, precocious and privately troubled Charlie Bartlett (Anton Yelchin) is the new kid at public school after getting kicked out of a series of private schools. Partnering with the resident delinquent, he transforms high school into his private therapy practice, to the annoyance of neurotic, semi-recovered alcoholic principal (Robert Downey Jr. — who else?).
An interesting power struggle ensues that’s either too old for its tween-sized britches or too young for its heavy shades of drug dependency and illicit trade. It’s also hard to tell if the film nods to Harold and Maude when Cat Stevens’ ‘If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out’ is sung at the talent show or just rips it off some more. The confused script by first-time screenwriter Gustin Nash finds a way to ram every possible psychoses — from misanthropic teens to Charlie’s woozy mom (Hope Davis) — into the film’s one-and-a-half hours, echoing the jumbled contents of an adolescent locker.