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The Wackness

The Wackness (2008)



Average Rating: 6.3/10
Reviews Counted: 127
Fresh: 88 | Rotten: 39

Sympathetic characters and a clever script help The Wackness overcome a familiar plot to make for a charming coming-of-age comedy.


Average Rating: 6.3/10
Critic Reviews: 31
Fresh: 21 | Rotten: 10

Sympathetic characters and a clever script help The Wackness overcome a familiar plot to make for a charming coming-of-age comedy.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.6/5
User Ratings: 25,045

My Rating

Movie Info

It's the summer of 1994, and the streets of New York are pulsing with hip-hop and wafting with the sweet aroma of marijuana--but change is in the air. The newly-inaugurated mayor, Rudy Giuliani, is beginning to implement his anti-fun initiatives against "crimes" like noisy portable radios, graffiti and public drunkenness. Set against this backdrop, Luke Shapiro spends his last summer before college selling dope throughout New York City, trading it with his shrink for therapy, while crushing on


Drama, Comedy

Jonathan Levine

Jan 6, 2009


Sony Pictures Classics - Official Site External Icon

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All Critics (129) | Top Critics (32) | Fresh (88) | Rotten (39) | DVD (5)

Kingsley's shamelessly zingy performance adds welcome pep, and a delicate, achingly sincere summertime idyll on Fire Island offers notice of Levine's evident promise.

August 29, 2008 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

That first sight of Ben Kingsley sucking down a bowl will burn into your memory. You may be watching The Wackness but it's hard to forget that this is Gandhi putting Bic to bong in Jonathan Levine's silly, sappy and sympathetic coming-of-age memoir.

August 1, 2008 Full Review Source: Orlando Sentinel
Orlando Sentinel
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The Wackness marks a step up in ambition, but it is also self-indulgent and needlessly complicated for what it ultimately delivers: a somber John Hughes picture scored to A Tribe Called Quest and Mary J. Blige.

July 25, 2008 Full Review Source: Miami Herald
Miami Herald
Top Critic IconTop Critic

On the downside: There is a wackness to The Wackness, a saggy psychic undertow that drags down its lighter and smarter aspects.

July 25, 2008 Full Review Source: Houston Chronicle
Houston Chronicle
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The Wackness, for all its eccentricities and emotional pain, is really a sweet little film.

July 25, 2008 Full Review Source: Detroit News
Detroit News
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The characters are sympathetically drawn and the modest wisdom rings true.

July 24, 2008 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

An exercise in style and wit, two commodities that never go out of fashion.

August 15, 2011 Full Review Source: East Bay Express
East Bay Express

Josh Peck and Ben Kingsley make for an oddly engaging couple in Jonathan Levine's audacious comedy about sex, drugs, and unexpected friendships.

May 31, 2011 Full Review Source:

It's an utterly routine picture, but its low-key mood and acting disarm

August 26, 2009 Full Review Source: CinePassion

With a game cast and cool songs from the era... heartfelt moments battling clumsy ones, The Wackness isn't quite dope but, like a good mixtape it is full of highlights.

July 30, 2009 Full Review Source: GreenCine

Dumb title? Certainly. Perfectly proportioned? Nope. True-to-life? Certainly not. An enjoyably quirky indie comedy? You bet.

January 19, 2009 Full Review Source: Apollo Guide | Comment (1)
Apollo Guide

Parallel yet intertwined older and younger generations, and a real girl, set this above the usual young dudes genre, changing from comic to romantic to poignant and back.

December 3, 2008 Full Review Source:

If nothing else, it's probably worth seeing for the kissing scene between Kingsley and Mary-Kate Olsen.

November 19, 2008 Full Review Source: The Australian | Comments (2)
The Australian

It's an old theme. Levine tackles it with gusto and verve, and if ultimately he overdoes it with a hi-end quirky style, I think there's enough authenticity here to see the film through.

November 14, 2008 Full Review Source: MovieTime, ABC Radio National
MovieTime, ABC Radio National

This is a gently humorous and beautifully moving film.

November 14, 2008 Full Review Source: FILMINK (Australia)
FILMINK (Australia)

Levine's extended use of sepia-toned cinematography adds to the film's charmless look, matching the bleakness of the lives of most of the people he presents to the audience.

November 14, 2008 Full Review Source: Daily Telegraph (Australia)
Daily Telegraph (Australia)

It muddles through on its period infatuation and on Kingsley's dope-loving turn as a doctor constantly on the verge of another hit.

November 14, 2008 Full Review Source: The Age (Australia)
The Age (Australia)

The performances are all very fine, but the standout is Ben Kingsley's Squires. It's so unexpected.

November 14, 2008 Full Review Source: At the Movies (Australia)
At the Movies (Australia)

Better than most "coming of age" stories due to some fine comic and dramatic performances by a talented cast.

November 13, 2008 Full Review Source: Laramie Movie Scope
Laramie Movie Scope

A thoroughly engaging comic drama with absurdist elements %u2013 or is that just real life

November 8, 2008 Full Review Source: Urban Cinefile
Urban Cinefile

THE WACKNESS is one of those small little movies that come under the radar and sneak up on you.

September 16, 2008 Full Review Source: Sin Magazine
Sin Magazine

The Wackness, while no masterpiece, is the kind of film that doesn't come to much but is watchable as it saunters along with a provoking sense of meaningful pessimism. The performances are really the thing - Levine hasn't managed anything better.

August 29, 2008 Full Review Source: This is London
This is London

The film's forlorn charm is a little reminiscent of Cameron Crowe's adolescent memoir Almost Famous. It's a tiny bit soppy, too, but you can forgive that in a teenager.

August 29, 2008 Full Review Source: Independent

The Wackness is a teen drama, set in 1994 against a backdrop of laidback hip-hop and a roasting hot New York which tries just a bit too hard to be cool. But it is definitely not wack (bad).

August 29, 2008 Full Review Source: Sun Online
Sun Online

Kingsley is likewise on form and hits home with some terrifically world-weary one liners, while director Jon Levine brings a refreshing inventiveness to the film.

August 29, 2008 Full Review Source: Daily Mirror [UK]
Daily Mirror [UK]

Audience Reviews for The Wackness

The Wackness was like pure nostalgia for me. Swap New York for London and I can relate to much of the story and this felt like a proper 90's film, made by someone who is just as fond of the decade as I am. I loved the pace of the film too, you could probably smoke a bit of the green while watching to great effect (I'd imagine ;o). I thought everyone did a great job, I loved Ben Kingsley's performance and I thought Josh Peck was actually quite good. Although it would be nice if he closed his mouth once in a while. Ahh, life was much simpler then.....
June 5, 2013

Super Reviewer

The year is 1994, the place is New York City, and Luke Shapiro, having just graduated high school, tries to spend the summer figuring out what to do with his life, as well as how to deal with all of his various issues. Along the way, he makes his living dealing pot, which also includes trading some of his pot in exchange of clinical help from his psychiatrist Dr. Squires, who also happens to be his only real friend. Things get complicated when Luke starts up a relationship with his doctor's stepdaughter.

This is both a coming of age drama (with occasional bits of comedy) and a love letter to the nostalgic days of the 90s. In fact, the film is not very subtle when it coems to reminding the audience that the film is set in 1994. This might be annoying to some, but I rather liked it, but I have a huge love for the 90s, so there. Musically, since this is an urban film, and because the main character is into hip hop, that's what the bulk of the soundtrack is, although there's some nice chestnuts from the 60s and 70s thrown in as well, so that's great.

The characters aren't really the most admirable or worthy of being role models, and they aren't always totally likeable or sympathetic, but they are interesting, so that makes watchign a movie about them worthwhile. I couldn't completely relate to this film or the characters in every way, but I found enough similarities to make them somewhat more sympathetic.

I liked the lead, but this is one of those movies that is owned by the suporting characters. This film's got an intersting cast, and they all do a pretty decent job (at the very least), especially Ben Kingsley- who really goes off the rails and is rather unrecognizable here as the therapist who is also a drugged out relic yearning for the good old days. Josh Peck is not bad as Luke, but I wasn't blown away by him. Olivia Thirlby, who I liked in Juno, is even better here, giving a sassy and hip performance as the stepdaughter/love interest. In smaller but memorable roles are Method Man as Luke's supplier and Mary-Kate Olsen as one of Luke's customers, a party girl who has a really memorable WTF scene with Sir Ben.

Going back to the music for a sec, I think it's interesting to note that this is the second film that Olivia Thirlby has appeared in which features "All the Young Dudes" by Mott The Hoople. Odd.

This is a good movie, but not great. It's adequate, but I give it slighly higher marks (admittedly) because I'm a fan of the time period, I like seeing dignified actors play way against type, but do so in dignified ways that don't seem forced. If a movie about angsty bored drug users in the 90s sounds like your type of thing, then give this a watch.
August 18, 2011
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

With a great script, interesting characters and excellent performances all round, ''The Wackness'' is a very sweet, uplifting coming-of-age dramedy.
August 12, 2011
Liam Gadd

Super Reviewer

Its 1994, mutha fuckas. thats an accurate summary of this film. hey, people. this movie is set in 1994. did you forget already? and Olsen Twin #2 proves that she is an embarrassment to every mammal, reptile, amphibian, plant, and mineral on this Earth. and since she is identical to Olsen Twin #1 in every way, i guess the same goes for her too.
June 19, 2011

Super Reviewer

    1. Luke Shapiro: Do me a favor, Steph?
    2. Stephanie: Huh?
    3. Luke Shapiro: Just stand there til I leave. I wanna remember this. I've never done it before.
    4. Stephanie: Never done what?
    5. Luke Shapiro: Had my heart broken.
    – Submitted by George M (20 months ago)
    1. Luke Shapiro: I'm Luke Shapiro. I'm a drug dealer. Hear my cry.
    – Submitted by George M (2 years ago)
    1. Dr. Jeffrey Squires: Life has a funny way of turning you into the one thing you don't want to be.
    – Submitted by Angela T (2 years ago)
    1. Dr. Jeffrey Squires: It's great, living. Get your heart broken, find yourself face down in the gutter, get your balls sucked, make a real mess of a life.
    – Submitted by Angela T (2 years ago)
    1. Luke Shapiro: So that was all bullshit right? All that stuff about embracing your pain, making it a part of you? You can't do this, you can't just give up. Life is hard and it's full of pain and what-not, but we take it cause there's great stuff too. And we can do it cause we have friends- because we have each other.
    – Submitted by Angela T (2 years ago)
View all quotes (5)

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