×

Flipped

Nostalgia ultimately gets the best of director Rob Reiner in "Flipped."

With:
Juli Baker - Madeline Carroll Bryce Loski - Callan McAuliffe Patsy Loski - Rebecca De Mornay Steven Loski - Anthony Edwards Chet - John Mahoney Richard Baker - Aidan Quinn Trina Baker - Penelope Ann Miller Daniel Baker - Kevin Weisman

Nostalgia ultimately gets the best of director Rob Reiner in “Flipped,” a well-intentioned family pic about first love that’s overly concerned with period details and life lessons, rather than the genuinely sweet characters at its center. Though thankfully skirting the more saccharine manipulations of Reiner’s “The Bucket List,” “Flipped” is nonetheless a somewhat leaden piece of work, its considerable charms nearly smothered by strange pacing and awkward staging. Opening in limited release before spreading wide, this looks to be a profitably modest theatrical draw followed by more generous homevid activity.

Adapted from Wendelin Van Draanen’s well-loved 2001 young-adult novel, “Flipped” delves into the intricacies of a slowly budding junior-high romance “Rashomon”-style, with key incidents told and retold by each side of the gender divide. Representing that divide are across-the-street neighbors Juli Baker (Madeline Carroll), an idealistic oddball with a knack for climbing trees and raising chickens, and Bryce Loski (Callan McAuliffe), an oft-confused all-American type.

As Juli has harbored a crush on him since second-grade, Bryce has mastered ducking her attentions through “a half-decade of strategic avoidance,” he tells us in voiceover. As they enter middle school, Bryce begins to feel guilty for so frequently joining the crowd as they mock her idiosyncrasies, which ever-so-incrementally leads him toward more serious feelings for her, while Juli starts to wonder what she ever saw in this rather unimaginative pretty-boy.

Set in rural Michigan in the early 1960s (the novel took place in the present day), the film charts the relationship’s episodic progress while also limning the class divide between the two families, contrasting Juli’s loving blue-collar clan with Bryce’s judgmental upper-middle-class one. The film never tries to clutter its suburban milieu with excessive drama, yet so many scenes are played twice to accommodate the opposing perspectives that things start to drag.

Pic also gains little from being transposed to the postwar era of Reiner’s childhood (and of his far superior “Stand by Me”). In fact, the vintage details ultimately become a distraction; the period seems to encourage an almost Thomas Kinkade-worthy idealization in the director — every scene appears to take place during the magic hour, when even McAuliffe’s peach fuzz glows in the warm amber light — with all of the most obvious cultural signifiers and music popping up at every turn. (There will be Everly Brothers.)

Reiner maintains an even tone through most of the film, though he notably loses control whenever the focus leaves the two protagonists. Anthony Edwards (as Bryce’s choleric father) never seems to know whether he’s supposed to provide outright villainy or goofy comic relief, and a late scene in which he gets drunk and slaps Bryce’s older sister comes from out of nowhere. Likewise, Juli’s visit to her institutionalized uncle (Kevin Weisman) comes across as uncomfortably manipulative.

The two young leads do an admirable job carrying the film, however, and one wishes they were granted more time to simply be their characters, rather than running the kiddie romantic-comedy gantlet. Carroll is both adorable and believably self-possessed; unlike so many actors tasked with playing precocious children, she’s still recognizably a kid despite her maturity. Aussie first-timer McAuliffe is a bit more stilted in his line readings, though he’s still a game performer and gets his American accent just about right. Adult supporting players are largely competent, with Aidan Quinn particularly likable as Juli’s father, and John Mahoney making the best of his “teller of homespun truths” part as Bryce’s grandfather.

Technical contributions are pro, although the tendency toward high-gloss, seemingly CG-sweetened sunsets gets a bit cloying.

Popular on Variety

Flipped

Production: A Warner Bros. release of a Castle Rock Entertainment presentation of a Rob Reiner/Alan Greisman production. Produced by Reiner, Greisman. Executive producers, Martin Shafer, Liz Glotzer, David Siegel. Co-producer, Frank Capra III. Directed by Rob Reiner. Screenplay, Reiner, Andrew Scheinman, from the novel by Wendelin Van Draanen.

Crew: Camera (color), Thomas del Ruth; editor, Robert Leighton; music, Marc Shaiman; production designer, Bill Brzeski; art director, Desma Murphy; costume designer, Durinda Wood; sound (Dolby Digital), Lon E. Bender; re-recording mixer, Marc Fishman; visual effects supervisor, Kelvin McIllwain; assistant director, Frank Capra III; casting, Janet Hirshenson, Jane Jenkins. Reviewed at Arclight Cinerama Dome, Los Angeles, July 26, 2010. MPAA Rating: PG. Running time: 90 MIN.

With: Juli Baker - Madeline Carroll Bryce Loski - Callan McAuliffe Patsy Loski - Rebecca De Mornay Steven Loski - Anthony Edwards Chet - John Mahoney Richard Baker - Aidan Quinn Trina Baker - Penelope Ann Miller Daniel Baker - Kevin WeismanWith: Morgan Lily, Ryan Ketzner, Ashley Taylor, Israel Broussard, Cody Horn.

More Film

  • German Cinema Is Diverse, But Is

    German Cinema Is Varied, But Is It Too Risk Averse?

    One of the strengths of German cinema is its diversity, says Simone Baumann, managing director of the national film promotion agency German Films. As well as the three films at Toronto directed by female German helmers, there was also German filmmaker Thomas Heise’s documentary film essay “Heimat Is a Space in Time.” Then there were [...]

  • Female Filmmakers in Germany Make Progress

    Female Filmmakers Surge Forward in Germany, But Still Face Obstacles

    Four feature films by German filmmakers screened at the Toronto Film Festival, and three of them were directed by women – Angela Schanelec’s “I Was at Home, But…,” winner of the Berlinale’s best director prize, Ina Weisse’s “The Audition,” and Katrin Gebbe’s “Pelican Blood,” the latter two both starring Nina Hoss. Germany’s Oscar entry this [...]

  • Bull

    Annie Silverstein's 'Bull' Takes Top Awards, Robert Pattinson Starrer 'The Lighthouse' Wins Jury Prize at Deauville

    Annie Silverstein’s feature debut “Bull” swept three awards at the 45th Deauville American Film Festival, including the Grand Prize, the Revelation Prize for best first film and the Critics’ Prize. “Bull,” a portrait of a rebellious teenage girl from South Texas, world premiered at Cannes’s Un Certain Regard and marks Silverstein’s follow up to her [...]

  • Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez star

    Jennifer Lopez's 'Criminal' Striptease: How 'Hustlers' Landed the Fiona Apple Hit

    Contrary to what you might be expecting, the number of songs by Jennifer Lopez, Lizzo and Cardi B in “Hustlers,” their newly released acting vehicle, adds up to … zero. Meanwhile, the standout music sync in a movie that’s full of them belongs to no less likely a choice than Fiona Apple. The scene in [...]

  • Game of Thrones Season 8

    'Game of Thrones,' 'Avengers' Win Big at 45th Annual Saturn Awards

    As Jamie Lee Curtis picked up her first trophy ever at the 45th Annual Saturn Awards Friday night, she had a good luck charm on her arm: former manager Chuck Binder, whom she said was the reason she became an actor. “I was in college and had no thought of being an actor,” Curtis told [...]

  • Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu star

    Box Office: 'Hustlers' Dances Toward $32 Million Opening Weekend

    “Hustlers” is eyeing the biggest opening weekend ever for STXFilms, following a Friday domestic ticket haul of $13.1 million from 3,250 theaters. If estimates hold, the stripper saga could take home around $32 million come Sunday, marking the best live-action opening of Jennifer Lopez’s career. “Hustlers” follows a group of former strip club dancers, led [...]

  • Hustlers intimacy coordinator

    Meet the Stripper Consultant Who Gave 'Hustlers' Authenticity, Dignity and Sexual Freedom

    At last week’s Toronto Film Festival premiere of “Hustlers,” an audience of Hollywood heavyweights and Canadian locals applauded as a statuesque woman strutted on stage, rocking six-inch platform heels and a pastel tie-dye bodysuit. This adoration was not for stars Jennifer Lopez, Constance Wu or Keke Palmer, nor was it for the film’s acclaimed writer-director [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content