THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
What happened to Rob Reiner? There was a time in the 80's and early 90's when the filmmaker could do no wrong: This is Spinal Tap, The Sure Thing, Stand By Me, The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally, Misery, A Few Good Men, The American President. Quite a track record! Then his career inexplicably went south and never really got back on track (in a process now known as "pulling a Shyamalan"). Consider North, Ghosts of Mississippi, The Story of Us, Alex & Emma, Rumor Has It, and The Bucket List. Incidentally, I don't care if that last movie was a box office hit. I still think it was atrocious. So now we come to Flipped, which represents yet another low point in Reiner's career. I suppose some people may respond to this nostalgic ode to innocence and chastity, but I found it insufferable.
Set in 1963, Flipped is the story of two kids: Juli (Madeline Carroll) and her across-the-street neighbor Bryce (Callan McAuliffe). Juli is madly in love with Bryce from the moment they meet, but he finds her annoying. Over time - and several blatant plot contrivances - Juli sees that Bryce is "less than the sum of his parts," while he starts to fall for her. They "flip," get it? The issue is whether they can sort these feelings out and accept the young love we know they are destined to feel.
There's an old rule stating that only bad movies need to resort to voiceover narration. There are, of course, exceptions (Scorsese's Goodfellas being one of them), but Flipped is an excellent example of why this rule exists. The movie is about 60% narration. Events take place while Bryce narrates things that we can plainly see for ourselves. Then we see these same events replayed from Juli's point of view, as she also narrates what is visibly occurring on screen. This happens again and again. It's as though Reiner and co-writer Andrew Scheinman have no clue how to convey drama, and so they resort to having the two main characters tell us what's happening. Show, don't tell, guys.
On the rare occasions when there isn't narration, Flipped tends to indulge in the worst sort of overwrought melodramatics, culminating with Juli's visit to see her mentally challenged uncle. Mentally challenged people only appear in movies for one reason: to have loud, public, plot-convenient meltdowns, which is just what happens here. The uncle is played by Kevin Weisman, who makes the situation worse by milking every stereotype of the mentally challenged. A fight between Bryce's family later on is nearly as bad, with characters screaming at each other like banshees. No subtlety here!
A decent supporting cast is wasted, including Aidan Quinn as Juli's father, John Mahoney as Bryce's grandfather, and Anthony Edwards as his judgmental father. They do what they can with the material, as do the two young leads. The actors aren't the problem; it's the movie's insistence on stating the obvious for its entire 90-minute running time. I can't even begin to tell you how irritated I became with the narration. It's as though Reiner doesn't trust us to follow the action without the characters explaining it all to us. The end result is kind of like sitting in a movie theater and having the dolt behind you commenting throughout the film. You just want them to shut up so you can watch.
Flipped rolled out in limited release over the summer, with plans for a nationwide expansion. After it failed to generate any business, the expansion was abruptly cancelled. I'm surprised to log on to Rotten Tomatoes and find that it has more fresh reviews than rotten. Maybe audiences will find the movie on DVD/Blu-Ray and view its old-fashioned take on romance as appealing. Maybe they'll like the narration and the heavy-handed melodrama. All I'm saying is that Flipped is really, really, really not for me.
( out of four)
Flipped will be released on DVD or in a Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack on November 23. Look for it also on demand through digital cable, satellite TV, and select game consoles. It is available to buy through digital download from digital movie retailers.
The Blu-Ray features, like the movie itself, are underwhelming, consisting of just four short segments, each running about five minutes. "The Difference Between a Boy and a Girl" has Reiner and the two young stars again essentially telling us what we just watched and heaping praise upon one another. "Embarrassing Egg-Scuses" is a behind-the-scenes look at a subplot involving Juli and her pet chickens. "Anatomy of a Near-Kiss" finds McAuliffe and Carroll reminiscing about how they kept cracking up during a scene where their characters almost kiss. Finally, McAuliffe hosts "How to Make the Perfect Volcano," in which he tells you how to create the science experiment that his character has in the film.
A digital copy of Flipped also comes with the combo pack.
Flipped is rated PG for language and some thematic material. The running time is 1 hour and 30 minutes.