The opening scenes of Charlie Bartlett take place in an arena packed to the rafters with adrenalized teenagers waiting in frenzied anticipation for their hero to take the stage. At long last, amid smoke and flashing lights, a figure emerges and takes the microphone. "Hello," says the charismatic young man with preppy good looks. "My name is Charlie Bartlett. If there's anything I want you to remember tonight, it's that you are not alone." The crowd goes wild.
We've just witnessed the favorite daydream of Charlie Bartlett's 17-year-old protagonist. It is not unusual, of course, for a teen comedy to be fueled by the hormonal power of male adolescent fantasy, but this is something a bit out of the norm. Charlie's two strongest motivators—to be popular, and to genuinely help people—merge in his imagined success as a self-help guru. All the filmmakers have to do is combine Charlie's impulses with an abundance of intelligence and an acute lack of adult supervision, and all sorts of entertaining situations will develop.
Develop, they do. We learn quickly that Charlie's been kicked out of every private school on his well-heeled mother's list. Headmasters genuinely like the young man, but they can't turn a blind eye to industrious yet illegal endeavors like his fake ID service. Charlie's scams aren't for the money (he's got more of that than he can use); they're for the kudos. Now that he's run out of prep schools, Charlie will have to charm the teens at the local high school. It's a decidedly tougher crowd.
As smart as Charlie is, he doesn't have the sense not to wear his prep school blazer (complete with Latin crest) to his first day at Western Summit High. By the afternoon bell, he's been snubbed by the jocks and thrashed ...1