CHARLIE BARTLETT (***) - Starring Anton Yelchin, Robert Downey Jr., Hope Davis, Kat Dennings and Tyler Hilton.
Written by Gustin Nash.
Directed by Jon Poll.
It starts as a funny teen comedy until the final third, where it curves into angsty seriousness. What kept the movie buoyed through that transition for me was Robert Downey Jr., doing some pre-Iron Man slumming, as a high-school principal who lectures against drugs even though he hits the bottle each night.
Anton Yelchin, who will soon play Chekov in the next Star Trek movie, plays Charlie Bartlett, a rich kid kicked out of all private schools who must endure the indignity of public school. He doesn't have half the charm of Ferris Bueller, but the kids warm up to him when he starts dispensing psychiatric advice and giving them his leftover prescription pills.
The movie is able to walk the tightrope of satire in the first half until real problems develop in the second half, where many characters are revealed to have more depth than at first thought, and winds up being a satisfying whole. And it helps to have Downey, a John Hughes vet, to be here keeping it real.