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"Mean Creek"

Directed by Jacob Aaron Estes.
Written by Jacob Aaron Estes.
Starring Rory Culkin, Scott Mechlowicz, Trevor Morgan and Josh Peck.
Release Year:  2004
Review Date:  9/1/04


I won't lie--the biggest, maybe the only, reason I went to see "Mean Creek" was because it was the last movie at the local indie theater I hadn't seen yet.  As such, my expectations were not very high, but I left the screening wondering if I had missed the boat.

"Mean Creek" starts out taking place in a modern-day Oregon school where Sam (Rory Culkin) gets roughed up by the school bully, George (Josh Peck), for taking a peek at George's video camera.  George seems to have roughed up every kid that gets in his way, so Sam's older brother Rocky (Trevor Morgan) and Rocky's friend Marty (Scott Mechlowicz) devise a plan to play a little prank on George by taking him out to the local river and...well, you'll see.  Regardless, you know from the first frame that things go wrong for our buddy George...what are the consequences?

Do you give a shit?  Or, more importantly, have you NOT seen this movie 84 times in the last five years?

If the answer is yes, you might really enjoy "Mean Creek"; for me, I can't think of a film that felt as ordinary as this drivel.  Fine, George is the town bully, and he doesn't help his cause all that much by being an annoying bastard to the five main characters that attempt to play the prank on him.  His little video camera, his bad jokes, and his unfortunate timing with insulting the main characters leads to his very timely, since writer/director Jacob Aaron Estes eliminates the suspense very early on, it's in the execution that I have to find some satisfaction, and there wasn't much to be had.  Those shots of the kids on the river are serene, calming, and beautifully general, "Mean Creek" looks about as good as a low-budget indie can look, I guess.  But the pretty pictures don't have a whole lot going on within them, with dozens of literally speechless exchanges between characters and many other scenes with nothing of note going on.

When the prank is played halfway through the film, we are left wondering how the five kids--which include Sam, Rocky, Marty, Sam's "girlfriend" Millie (Carly Schroeder) and Clyde (Ryan Kelley)--will deal with the consequences.  I can't say that what they decide to do doesn't make fact, it just feels too movie for me.  By now, I feel like if I mistakenly kill somebody, I will revert to what I see in the movies first.  Will I flee to Mexico?  Will I try to rub off the fingerprints from the gun?  Will I dump the body in a bathtub full of acid?  These things always seem to work in the movies, so in "Mean Creek", when the characters come up with a plan, it just felt like Movies 101 all over again and I was just flat-out bored.

In fact, the whole second half of "Mean Creek" just sucked.  And, like "Vanity Fair", the ending fuckin' sucked here; it's just too rushed, which happens if your film is only 85 minutes.  The acting here isn't too bad; you can tell that, if he stays on track, Rory Culkin could turn out to be a decent presence onscreen, after his role in "Signs" a couple of years ago and now this.  The other performers aren't bad, but really they aren't given too much to work with.

Did I miss something here?  This won some minor award at Sundance earlier this year (who doesn't win something at Sundance these days?), and from a quick browse on Rotten Tomatoes it seems like "Mean Creek" got favorable reviews...but, I just thought this was boring.  I'm okay with a somber mood, but give Daddy something to work with!

Rating:  Rental


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09