With one of the catchier titles of the year, "The Chumscrubber" is a surprisingly funny and well-made film that, while not perfect, has plenty to offer.
Jamie Bell stars alongside a rather ensemble cast consisting of Glenn Close, William Fichtner, Ralph Fiennes, John Heard, Carrie-Anne Moss, Camilla Belle, Justin Chatwin and Rory Culkin. Bell, best known for "Billy Elliot," delivers a pretty good job as the loner son of a psychiatrist and natural vitamin expert who all live in a seemingly utopian suburban neighborhood. After Dean's (Bell) best friend commits suicide, however, things begin to deteriorate. Dean is forced to deliver his dead friend's stash of happy pills to a group of teenagers who kidnap his brother - only it isn't his brother but the mayor's son who just happens to have the same first name - while coping with his own prescribed medicine.
"Chumscrubber" is weird and offbeat, not unlike "Donnie Darko" minus the science-fiction element. There are actually several similarities to "Donnie Darko" in terms of characters, messaging and story elements. Dean sees his dead best friend who seems to guide him just a bit, sort of like the bunny did in "Darko." Dean is a bit strange and overly medicated, much like Jake Gyllenhaal's character in "Darko." Of course, "Chumscrubber" isn't sci-fi and it probably isn't fair to compare it to "Darko" as that movie worked a bit better in some areas, but if you are a fan of "Darko" you will definitely notice the similarities.
"Chumscrubber" is successful on many fronts, the first being that it effectively manages multiple stories while developing its characters at the same time. Even the smaller parts, such as those given to Lauren Holly (where has she been?) and Thomas Curtis, who plays the kidnapped Charlie, you can relate to, and the bigger characters are equally interesting, even if they are quirky.
Most importantly, "Chumscrubber" is funny. The film is consistently quirky both in its plot developments and characters, and makes the most of its potential. If you like quirky offbeat comedy, this one is for you.
"The Chumscrubber" isn't award-winning, but it's still a very good movie. Funny and meaningful with smart characters and plot, "The Chumscrubber" is one of the better movies of 2005.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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