Mean Creek (2004)

josh peck,cMinor spoilers

mean creek

Mean Creek is a drama about a group of kids who scheme a plan to humiliate a bully with tragic results. I think that there was possible a pretty good film here, but it’s buried under piles of garbage.

This is a story that’s been told before and after, and much better at that. The story isn’t anything new and doesn’t look at in a different way, or do anything to improve the concept. Mean Creek at times feels as though it is stitched together entirely out of cliches, from plot cliches, character and archetype cliches, even down to visual cliches, this film has nothing wholly original to offer. If you just can’t get enough of the small town teenagers on a river with largely absent parents trope then this film might appeal to you, but trust the feeling you get that you’ve seen this all before.

The acting is fairly good considering the age of the actors. Some of the characters are bland and I would even go as far as to say somewhat poorly written, and the actors don’t do anything to raise the bar. Some of the characters feel like complete stereotypes rather than actual characters. The two brothers that the film focuses on, Rocky and Sam, are boring and flat. The main character is Sam, the youngest of the boys, and he is also the most bland and uncharacterized of the bunch. The two characters that stick mean creek 3out the most are George played by Josh Peck and Millie played by Carly Schroeder.

While Millie as a character isn’t particularly deep or well written, the actress is great and makes the role stand out. George is the deepest of the characters and the best written. Josh Peck does a very good job in the role and is the strongest element the film has going for it, but at the same time, the way the film wants you to feel about the character get’s lost within itself.

At the start of the film you’re supposed be against George. The movie wants you to root for the group of teens to get revenge on this kid, but that didn’t effectively come across. The film explores the idea of whether or not their plan is justified, but seems confused in how it goes about it.

As soon as the film starts you’re being told that you should hate this kid. It might have been effective to just let the audience take the character’s word for it, and then explore the character as he is introduced later. The alternative would be to establish the kid as a person you can hate before getting into the revenge scheme. The film doesn’t take either of these approaches and instead chooses to open with one particular event that is supposed to get you against this kid. The event is question is the opening scene in which Sam is beaten up by George. An unsolicited beating would be enough to get you rooting against the kid, however he was not unprovoked. He beat up the Sam, because Sam was taking George’s video camera. I don’t know about you but I don’t see George’s reaction as uncalled for. It’s especially confusing seeing as taking the video camera is completely out of character for Sam. It makes no sense why he would even do it in the first place and ends up feeling like a lazy way to write in the start of the conflict.

The film caused a strange reaction with me, because I had just about the inverse opinion that the film wanted me to hold. At a certain point all of the characters decide to call of their plan because they have started to like George, which just about the time that I started to hate him. This character says some truly awful things and the way the other characters react to him is completely unbelievable.

*SPOILER ALERT*

mean creek 2

Mean Creek tries to achieve the same goal that “World’s Greatest Dad” had; To make you hate a character, and still feel bad when they die. It worked perfectly in “World’s Greatest Dad” because of the excellent characterization of the father and the absolutely brilliant performance from Robin Williams. In Mean Creek this effect is not achieved.

While the first two acts of the film were cliched and mediocre, with perhaps a few redeeming factors, the third act is absolutely horrible. The emotions of the characters is not examined as they should be. The film decides to take the easy way out and cut away whenever the plot comes to a moment of genuine drama that could be interesting, most likely because it’s harder to write those types of scenes, and the script for “Mean Creek” comes off to me as particularly lazy.

The aspect of the film that bothered me the most was actually the soundtrack. The music in this film is dreadful. The original score and the pre-existing music. There is even at least one song that I actually like that can be heard in “Mean Creek”, but the movie managed to use it to negative effect by having it play during a scene that had no business using any music at all. A scene that would’ve been better off silent is coupled with a decent song, and as a result both suffer. The original score isn’t awful, but it’s just recycled from other similar films and feels overtly generic.

Mean Creek isn’t awful but it’s certainly not good. At best “Mean Creek” can be seen as extremely mediocre, which really surprised me because the film is generally well received. It’s competent for the most part and the actors deserve some credit. Not painful to watch by any means but Mean Creek is without a doubt highly overrated.

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