The Wackness


The Wackness

Critics Consensus

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



Total Count: 132


Audience Score

User Ratings: 25,333
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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 his step-daughter.

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Ben Kingsley
as Dr. Squires
Famke Janssen
as Mrs. Squires
Olivia Thirlby
as Stephanie
Aaron Yoo
as Justin
Talia Balsam
as Mrs. Shapiro
David Wohl
as Mr. Shapiro
Bob Dishy
as Grandpa Shapiro
Joanna Merlin
as Grandma Shapiro
Shannon Briggs
as Bodyguard #1
Roy Milton Davis
as Homeless Man
Alexander Flores
as Kid in Bar
Ken Marks
as Oliver
Kiah Fredericks
as Police Officer #1
Robert Armstrong
as Principal Edward
Douglas J. Aguirre
as Desk Officer in Prison
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News & Interviews for The Wackness

Critic Reviews for The Wackness

All Critics (132) | Top Critics (34) | Fresh (92) | Rotten (40)

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

    Nov 14, 2008 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…
  • 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.

    Aug 29, 2008 | Rating: 3/5
  • Its writer-director, Jonathan Levine, lavishes the movie with inky black shadows and soft gauzy close-ups, making it mostly feel like a dream, or a half-conjured memory.

    Aug 29, 2008 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

    Kevin Maher

    Times (UK)
    Top Critic
  • 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.

    Aug 29, 2008 | Rating: 4/6 | Full Review…
  • 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.

    Aug 1, 2008 | Rating: 3/5
  • 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.

    Jul 25, 2008 | Rating: 2/4

Audience Reviews for The Wackness

  • Jan 28, 2012
    I liked this a lot! It was different and sweet and I enjoyed that it took place in the 90's.
    Sarah P Super Reviewer
  • Aug 13, 2011
    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.
    Chris W Super Reviewer
  • Aug 12, 2011
    With a great script, interesting characters and excellent performances all round, ''The Wackness'' is a very sweet, uplifting coming-of-age dramedy.
    Liam G Super Reviewer
  • Jan 21, 2011
    With chameleon-like versatility, Ben Kingsley went from peace-loving pacifist in "Gandhi" to intimidating pychopath in "Sexy Beast". Here, he finds a juicy role that slots somewhere inbetween. Luke Shapiro (Josh Peck), is a small-time dealer who literally carts weed around in an ice-cream wagon. He thinks he's depressed; his therapist, Dr. Squires (Ben Kingsley), thinks he just needs to get laid. Trouble is, the girl Luke's into is Squires' step-daughter Stephanie (Olivia Thirlby), a fact he keeps secret from his mentor. The movie follows the evolution of these relationships - Luke and Squires, Luke and Stephanie, and Squires and his cold wife (Famke Janssen). A fine little coming-of-age/rite-of-passage film that's elevated above the norm due to fine performances from the two leads. Peck perfectly captures the endearing, but dumb as a bag of hammers, nature of Luke. Director Jonathan Levine does well in keeping the 90's style flowing and nostalgic, with great use of hip-hop soundtrack but really this film is about one thing and one thing only...Ben Kingsley! Is this really Gandhi we are watching, sucking on bongs, smoking blunts and shagging one of the Olsen twins in a phone box? As it appears, yes it is, and it's fun to see Kingsley letting loose again and proving how good an actor he is. The problem is though, when he's not on screen the film suffers and becomes a tad tedious until he appears again. A decent effort by all involved but the material is nothing new and relies a little to heavily on Kingsley's eccentricity carrying it home.
    Mark W Super Reviewer

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