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Mean Creek
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Mean Creek More at IMDbPro »

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112 out of 134 people found the following review useful:

Intelligent, superbly acted and thoroughly absorbing

8/10
Author: anhedonia from Planet Earth
29 September 2004

I knew next to nothing about this film when I went to see it. I knew it starred Rory Culkin, who was so good in 2000's best film, "You Can Count on Me," and received some critical acclaim. But I knew nothing about the story and what a wonderful surprise "Mean Creek" proved to be.

This is an intelligent, engaging movie buoyed by some of the best acting by young actors this year. Writer-director Jacob Aaron Estes, who won a 1998 Nicholl Fellowship in Screen writing for his script, takes the basic premise of revenge against a school bully and turns it into a moving and gripping film. Incidentally, this is the second terrific movie to come out of that Nicholl class - the other was Karen Moncrieff's "Blue Car," one of last year's best films.

Given the subject matter, "Mean Creek" could easily have been another after-school special masquerading as an indie feature. But Estes eschews the conventions of the genre to give his characters unexpected depth and create an engrossing morality play. None of his characters is a caricature; they're all flawed and unmistakably human. The moral issues they face are real and complex; the crises they create are dealt with expertly.

What's special about "Mean Creek" are its fine young actors. Culkin again is convincing as a skittish young boy being picked on by the school bully, but the two startlingly brilliant performances are by Josh Peck as the bully George, and Carly Schroeder as Millie, the young girl unexpectedly dragged into the plot.

Peck makes George captivating when he could just as easily made him a typical, one-note bully. Peck gives George substance and turns on the charm so well that we understand the others' reluctance to go through with exacting his comeuppance. George becomes likable, someone who seems to resort to bullying to hide inadequacies of his own. Peck draws us into his character; we feel sympathy for someone who is supposed to be unsympathetic.

The flaw in Estes' writing is that after making George someone who elicits compassion, Estes unwisely opts for an easy way out by forcing George to turn to his uglier side. Had George suddenly not turned mean, the moment would have been far more potent than it already is.

Young Schroeder is downright extraordinary. Her Millie is mature way beyond her years. She serves as the group's moral core and Schroeder's scenes in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy are so astonishingly raw, you're likely to forget she's a young teen actress. Hers is one of the best supporting performances the year.

"Mean Creek" is one of the best coming-of-age films. All teenagers and their parents should see this, despite its R rating. It's unfortunate the MPAA gave "Mean Creek" an R rating because despite the use of the F-word, "Mean Creek" is far less offensive than much of the PG-13-rated garbage - the more recent "Charlie's Angels" movies, for instance - and provides more enjoyment and insight into human behavior in five minutes than almost any mainstream movie playing right now.

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97 out of 122 people found the following review useful:

Makes "Thirteen" look bad

Author: jsemovieman from St. Louis, MO
12 November 2004

Mean Creek ***1/2/out of 4

"Mean Creek" has the most accurate depiction of teen life and adolescence I've ever seen in a movie. Unlike "Thirteen", which is stereotypical and tries to give answers and resolutions, "Mean Creek" sticks out in the teen-life genre as a beauty. The young actors and actresses do a great job, but Carly Schroeder as Millie is the best. She gets to your gut as the innocent kid who's in the wrong place at the wrong time.

One of the most memorable parts for me in the movie is when the Bully, George, is filming with his camcorder and zooms in on an exotic spiral shape, saying "This is my life". That's such a brilliant line because adolescence is such a horrible and awkward stage in life. High schoolers (being one myself) are filled with an assortment of emotions and feelings and "Mean Creek" portrays that with such power.

Like "Deliverance", the film is focused on a canoe trip that goes completely wrong and "Mean Creek " has some themes that "Deliverance" has. Jacob Aaron Estes is a director who is off to a great start-making films that are completely honest in every way.

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71 out of 82 people found the following review useful:

tight well made flick

Author: samzpan from United States
5 September 2004

You're not going to leave the theater whistling dixie, and a box of Kleenex is not the best accessory, but this tight well made little movie is worth the effort. The actors, mostly all kids, are very believable, everyone of them does a great job, and maybe the credit should go to the director. As the movie bounces along you kind of expect that something is going to go wrong. And, of course, it eventually does, and after the big scene, it's like downer city, for everyone including the audience. But so what, if you want to go see a happy flick there are plenty of those around. This movie depicts kids in a very realistic light. The dialogue, their emotions, their reactions to a crisis, are very spot on. Good movies like this blow away so called "reality" TV. A friend with me said this reminded him of a Gus Van Sant movie, I don't agree with that, Van Sant movies always have some really weird scenes in them that detract from the overall cohesion of the movie. Mean Creek doesn't do that, check it out.

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44 out of 52 people found the following review useful:

Disturbing yet beautiful portrait of adolescence

10/10
Author: josh bryan from Canada
16 August 2005

To start off this review I must say, that when I first discovered the corny box cover I thought it had to be a comedy. When I read the back I figured it must be one of those dark comedy films. And with a cast like that, how could it not be??? I have never been so wrong in my whole life.

I have seen many movies before, and none have held such great performances as this, and hardly any have spoken to the audience in such a powerful way. This film is quite disturbing, mainly because of its brutal honesty. The characters are deeply flawed yet still ring true to real life. Out of the main characters, you can at least relate to one, if not all.

The actors....wow. I can't believe that Josh Peck gave such an amazing performance as George, the bully or basically any of the cast members. I would have NEVER known that he was the boy from The Amanda Show. In fact the only actor I expected to pull this off was Rory Culkin. The performances were so natural, so beautiful I almost forgot I was watching a film.

Sure, many people hated this movie. That's their choice and no matter which film you see, there's bound to be haters. Yet, I think that the people who hated it just haven't looked deep enough into it, into the dark underlying.

Mean Creek is a very unique and individual film. You can't even really put it into a category. The atmosphere, emotion and message this film brings across to the audience is so real and gives you the final slap across the face at the end of the film. It really hits you. I think that some people who hated this movie are just scared of it. I think they're scared of just how much reality there is in it and the heartbreaking proof behind it.

The dialogue is also pretty damn real. Jacob Aaron Estes really captures the essence of what its like to be a male adolescent...the dialogue feels like its coming straight from the heart.

This movie portrays the state of mind of a teenager beautifully. Definitely 10/10.

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49 out of 65 people found the following review useful:

'Deliverance' For The Truth Or Dare Crowd

8/10
Author: Ryan Ellis from Toronto, Canada
1 September 2004

'Mean Creek' is 'Deliverance' for the Truth Or Dare crowd. John Boorman's 1972 thriller about a canoe trip gone wrong had a sense of reality and inevitability that redeemed the horrific violence. The film didn't flinch and no one escaped with a happy ending. Feature-film newcomer Jacob Aaron Estes' prank-gone-too-far morality tale isn't as riveting as 'Deliverance', but his 'Mean Creek' hits many of the same haunting notes. He skillfully uses guilt and paranoia as weapons. Just ask Nixon...it's not the crime, it's the cover-up.

The only cast member I've heard of is Rory Culkin, who reinforces the notion that he's the best actor in his family. Sam (Culkin) and 4 others (his potential girlfriend, his big brother, and 2 friends) have conned the local bully into joining them on a boating trip. They're planning to trick him into stripping off his clothes, then they'll make him run home naked. The girl (Carly Schroeder) doesn't discover this plan until she's already in the boat, but she convinces the boys to call it off. After all, George the bully (Josh Peck) is just a fat fool who might even be a nice guy.

Ah, but a good film never lets its characters off the hook that easily. Our Greek tragedies dictate that there would be no film (certainly not one called 'Mean Creek') if they all just lived happily yadda yadda. George doesn't deserve this treatment, but he's not perfectly innocent either. Actually, he's askin' for it. What eventually happens to him might not be deliberate, but how will the kids explain their actions? It doesn't help that George has been recording most of the trip on a video camera.

The skilled child actors are allowed to play smart characters. They give naturalistic performances and say real things. Estes' perceptive script doesn't let ANYONE off the hook because there's a lot of blame to go around. George isn't the only bully, after all. 'Mean Creek' is a fairly simple story told with a series of complex layers. Humiliation, vengeance, a waking nightmare, no heroes or villains...the film is filled with themes. In the final thirty minutes, the characters are forced to deal with the consequences of their actions. For such a child-filled movie, this is a grown-up story.

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41 out of 51 people found the following review useful:

Wow

9/10
Author: (JessicaMorrisFan@aol.com) from GA
12 March 2005

This movie completely took me by surprise. I saw it mostly because I love independent films and have been a fan of Carly Schroeder and Rory Culkin for awhile now, and make it a point to see whatever either of them are in. But wow, was I shocked. I have never seen that kind of depth (acting wise) from kids like this. Every actor was brilliant and unique in there performances. The characters were realistic and relate able, the writing and directing (by first timer Jacob Aaron Estes) are immaculate, and the story is completely believable and leaves you thinking about it after you leave the theater. I can't even pick a stand out performance, because unlike most films today, all of the six leads were stand outs. This movie is unlike no other you'll see, and it will affect you in ways that will stay with you. I'd recommend this movie to anyone. 9/10.

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39 out of 52 people found the following review useful:

The good outweighs the bad in this outstanding picture!

9/10
Author: Martina_Helene from United States
14 July 2005

Mean Creek is an amazing movie. It is so refreshing to see a good movie when there are so many worthless ones around presently. There are many great things about Mean Creek, and a few not so good things. The writing is excellent, the directing is great. The acting is so well done, it seems more real than half the "reality" TV shows on TV today. The young actors which consist of Trevor Morgan, Ryan Kelley, Scott Melchowitz, Rory Culkin, Carley Shroader, and Josh Peck. I was blown away by their performances. There is another thing that makes Mean Creek so unique. It's cinematography (sp?). Most of the action of the movie takes place within one day, and at a Creek. The filming of the Creek is so magnificent, there are great shots of the Creek itself, the water, the forestry around it, and there are some great pictures of the animals that call the creek home. The subject matter of Mean Creek is extreme and dramatic, which is another reason for the amazement at the young actors in this film! The main subject revolves around the themes of forgiveness and revenge. The first five children plan a simple revenge trick on the bully, yet something horrible happens are all of the children are forced into an extremely difficult situiton in just a matter of minutes. The ending is a bit ambiguous, and open ended. WHich, I think is good in a certain way but I would have wanted more closure about the fate of the children. I am surprised by the lack of representation at the award shows for this picture. I truly believe this film in underrated and under viewed, because it's an indie and it's a directors debut.

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32 out of 39 people found the following review useful:

Simple, Real, Powerful and Impressive

9/10
Author: Claudio Carvalho from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
4 February 2007

In Oregon, when the bully George Tooney (Josh Peck) beats his schoolmate Sam Merric (Rory Culkin), his older brother Rocky (Trevor Morhan) schemes a prank with his two also teenager friends Clyde (Ryan Kelley) and Marty (Scott Mechlowicz) seeking revenge. They invite George, Sam and his girlfriend Millie (Carly Schroeder) to a boat trip along the river, with the intention of humiliating George and get even. However, Millie convinces Sam to call off the plan and the boys accept in spite of the reluctant Marty. When they decide to play "truth or dare" in the middle of the river, the truth about the prank is disclosed to George and he offends the boys mostly the traumatized Marty, leading the group to an accident with tragic consequences.

"Mean Creek" is a simple, real, powerful and impressive story. The first point that calls the attention is the performances of this young generation of promising and talented actors and actress. I hope they have the same luck of Coppola's boys of "Rumble Fish" and "The Outsiders". The story teaches in a hard way that for each action that we take there are consequences. Further, this is the first honest film that exposes the problematic relationship of an adolescent with gay parents with his friends. "Mean Creek" is certainly one of the best coming-to-age movies that I have ever seen and therefore highly recommended inclusive for teenagers. The Brazilian title is simply awful. My vote is nine.

Title (Brazil): "Pacto Maldito" ("Damned Pact")

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28 out of 46 people found the following review useful:

Wonderful Breath of Fresh Air

Author: CharlieSykes from nyc
23 August 2004

With an all-child cast, it bears resemblance to "stand by me." A group of kids plot to pay the school bully back for years of abuse. They take him on a boat trip. If you want more, go see it. It was the best film I've seen this year. Throughout the duration of this classic, one element stuck out for me: Carly Schroeder. She is going to be a star and a half. She blows that annoying cherry blossom, Dakota Fanning, away. Rory Culkin, Macauly's little brother, was just perfect for the part of a naive kid, susceptible to his older brother's overbearing testosterone. Go see this film, because you will talk about it for hours on end. Perfect dinner movie. Take your girlfriend, boyfriend, significant other. Kids under 13, though portrayed in the film, just aren't ready for the material of this film, so don't bring your children.

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8 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Amazingly accurate depiction of American adolescence

10/10
Author: pachl from Illinois
9 February 2008

I had one of the biggest shocks of my life recently. I proudly showed this film to my best friend from Europe. We normally have very similar tastes in movies.

I have to admit, I almost teared up a little around the end of the movie, but managed to keep my composure. Then the movie ended... to dead silence! I was waiting for my friend to say something, and what he said shocked me: "What the hell was THAT?" After discussing the movie a bit, I came to the conclusion that his experiences growing up were so different than this that it was like showing a futuristic Sci Fi movie to a person living in rural Zimbabwe. In the Czech Republic, where he is from, you don't commonly have these kinds of problems. Kids get along amazingly well. You may find this hard to believe, but in the Czech Republic, grade school and high school teachers routinely take their classes to places all around Europe. They have no trouble with kids not getting along. No one has any whiny special requests, and no one refuses to share a room with someone.

Guess that explains why this movie made no sense to my friend.

However, if you are an American, as I am, this movie is deeply touching, and may even bring back unsettling childhood memories of bullies.

Scott Mechlowicz is certifiably great in this movie, as is Josh Peck, who plays George, the bully. I look back at movies from the 1970's. Child actors back then were hilariously amateurish compared to these people. In fact, movies increasingly are showcasing young actors whose talents are absolutely astounding. (unlike the kid who played opposite Lucille Ball as "Auntie Mame's grandson).

What makes this movie so compelling and memorable is that it is tragedy in the old Greek sense of the word: people bring about their own downfall. The bully George, as it turns out, has a good side, but he is socially inept, and so he lashes out in terrible ways. The kids are ready to like him and forgive him. Instead, George can't control his anger, and he verbally lashes out at everyone, until their newfound compassion (or at least pity) for him starts to evaporate.

The tragedy in this movie is that everything comes so close to working out fine for everyone.

I hope that will peak your interest. And speaking of interest, I have none in writing a "spoiler" review. This movie is best seen knowing as little as possible about the plot.

I think if I had to defend American movie making against all the criticism of how Hollywood depends on special effects, big name actors, and lurid story lines, I would choose this movie as proof that American movies are still the best in the world.

Addition added January 16, 2009: I have been writing reviews here for over three years. Sometimes years will go by without any indication someone read my review. So, please let me know if you read it. The thumbs up or thumbs down is entirely your choice. I'm just curious.

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