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Intelligent, superbly acted and thoroughly absorbing
anhedonia29 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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tight well made flick
samzpan5 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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Disturbing yet beautiful portrait of adolescence
josh bryan16 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 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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Makes "Thirteen" look bad
jsemovieman12 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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Amazingly accurate depiction of American adolescence
pachl9 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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MeanCreekfan12 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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Simple, Real, Powerful and Impressive
Claudio Carvalho4 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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'Deliverance' For The Truth Or Dare Crowd
Ryan Ellis1 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'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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The good outweighs the bad in this outstanding picture!
Martina_Helene14 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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Wonderful Breath of Fresh Air
CharlieSykes23 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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Excellently acted, emotionally genuine, and subtly intelligent.
Carl Phillips20 April 2005
Mean Creek, in my opinion, was an excellent film. Though the actual plot of the movie is somewhat unoriginal, Jacob Aaron Estes does a fine job directing it, and steering it away from any clichés. The acting was also exceptional, and the actors captured all the strong emotions caused by a death and regret, but in a subtle way.

The story slowly reveals the characters' true selves as they travel along a river, planning to pull a prank on George (Josh Peck), a local bully who has dangerous mood swings, and beat up Sam (Rory Culkin). Sam's girlfriend, his brother, and his brother friends take George on a trip, making him believe that they want to be friends with him. During the trip, George acts unusually nice, and the rest of them start having second thoughts, except for Marty (Scott Mechlowitz), who has no reason to discontinue the prank. Unfortunately, George had a strong mood swing, and nothing good came of it...

... that is, except for an originally captivating emotional ride, which sits heavy on the concepts of unimaginable regret and questioning whether the truth should be revealed. The last scene, in which George explains how his mind works, makes you look back on the movie and think, "Wow."
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A Well-Made Movie, but its worth more than that
BigBadaBruce22 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This movie has a very simple storyline that most people have probably thought of before. If you could get revenge on the guy or girl who bullies you, would you? and if you would, what would be the consequences? This movie asks that question, and is well-made. The bully, George, seems at first just a horrible lad, a obvious bully, but what happens when you get under the surface? You meet the real George? Is all what it seems on the surface? Very good acing from George, great actor. You wouldn't expect it from "The Amanda Show" and "Drake and Josh", no offence. The victim is Sam, young lad, played by Rory Culkin, a name with history in Hollywood. Sam, is the sort of lad who is very set in his ideals, he doesn't want to be like George, he wants to be good. Buyt inside, he slightly wants to get revenge, motivated by his brother Rocky. Rocky, the type of older brother you wish you had, funny, smart and looks after you, what more could you want? Has great nice-ability, lovely actor. Then the friends roped in.... Millie, Sam's "girlfriend", who seems to like Sam but is nervous, like most 14 year old girls, she embarks on this story unknowing of what will happen, and maybe the most innocent there. Then you have Rocky's friends, the effeminate but kind Clyde, the sort of friend most people love to have, just a kind lad, who sometimes seems picked on because of his parents, the gay male couple. And finally, Marty, the bad boy, a possible cliché who is made into a 3-d character with emotions and reasoning. All of the characters are real human beings with emotions and other sides to them, which makes what happens all the more interesting...... A brilliant first-time movie by the director, and an interesting ideal behind it. If you could revenge yourself up on your bully, would you.....
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see this brilliant film
reginafalanji2 June 2005
amazing piece of film you end up feeling making...sorry for the bully, but then things just down down hill.....watched it on a date, and i must say it was better than what we say the previous day....i recommend it to everyone. it will make you think twice about bullying! just see it OK! the acting was superb and the writing perfect...and the ending was unexpected really! i had tears in my eyes....really really good...if you don't understand the subject matter, you must be from a different planet....what the characters do in the end is not what you'd expect...brilliant!!

what else can i say for 10 lines? the film was MUCH better than the nicole kidman effort.
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Mean Creek asks uncomfortable questions about bullying
Chris_Docker8 May 2005
A group of school kids set off on a boat trip planning to teach a bully a lesson he won't forget . . .

It's a story that could easily be turned into a standard plan-gone-wrong story and deteriorate into a run-of-the-mill teen horror flick. But instead Mean Creek is an understated and surprisingly thought-provoking film that has understandably been notching up a few awards worldwide.

Sam, a young lad (maybe about 12) gets a serious kicking from a very overweight boy, George, who flies into a rage when Sam goes near his camcorder. It has a visceral feel to it that makes us slow down and question. The opening shot is the view from the camcorder, then switches to a very ordinary 'normal' shot as the beating continues. Through the film, the cameras often change, contrasting stunningly beautiful river shots with very mundane ones or 'camcorder' quality. It's almost as if we're being shown several ways of viewing things - which one is right? Sam's brother organises the group and 'invites' George on the boating trip, with a plan to humiliate him, but Sam invites his 'girlfriend' Millie along without telling her the plan. Difficulties arise when she finds out, and also by now we know that George has learning difficulties and genuinely tries hard to be a nice person, even though he is prey to sudden rages.

In this scenario of shifting sympathies, the film focuses on the inward, unspoken thoughts of the characters. For instance, we watch as Millie struggles inwardly with the moral dilemmas. There is also the contrast between the loud-mouthed bravado of all the kids and their more thoughtful, intelligent side - one that we so often don't see when viewing children at large.

Their difficulties in resolving the problem are mirrored by our own - bullying is not a problem adults have been able to 'solve' - in fact violence in schools seems to have escalated in the past decade. Do we try to understand? discipline? exclude? Education has rushed ahead, banning corporal punishment, but the advanced 'people skills' we aspire to have, that can defuse any situation without the threat of more old-fashioned methods of discipline, haven't quite caught up. Order breaks down and the worst instincts may in some cases get free rein.

There's a moment in the film when we wonder if the children will go down a path that would perhaps save George by putting their new-found compassion for him into practice, but would it work long term? When children leave school for the wider world they enter a system where force is used as a last resort, but even that use of just force has lost some of the respect that it should have to be effective. At one point in the film, where they argue over the best course of action and where prison might be just a faint possibility were the resultant crimes confessed, the dissuading argument by the ringleader is about "going to prison and getting raped every night for the rest of your life" - showing a (perhaps believable) lack of faith in the justice system. America has one of the highest incarceration rates per head of population of any modern country, yet violence continues undiminished. One of the threads of the film suggests that the heavy-handedness of the justice system draws people into criminality because they feel that, having strayed a little, they have no choice but to embrace a life on the wrong side of the law.

When I was at school (in a time when caning had almost, but not quite, been completely phased out), I had been bullied frequently by one boy (who picked on many kids). We had a liberal gym teacher who accepted my suggestion that I challenge the bully to a fair fight with boxing gloves. It worked - we knocked hell out of each other for a few minutes then laughed about it in the changing rooms - and he didn't bully me or my friends again. We had learnt the idea of 'fair' or 'justified' violence that is very different from emotional, uncontrolled outbursts. Punishment should both be controlled and for the benefit of the recipient, so that the growing mind can learn correct ways. If punishment (or reasoning) is ineffective (as it often is now in our school system) then we are letting down those children who need it. Perhaps liberalism in schools has gone too far.

Made with considerable self-discipline, Mean Creek (with a budget of just £260,000), proves that American indie cinema is alive and kicking.
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'Mean Creek' is a realistic and solid film.
geniuskentyk-19 July 2010
'Mean Creek' is one of the most realistic depictions of teenage lives I've seen as of yet. The characters are realistic and believable, the dialogue is realistic and believable, and the situation the cast faces is realistic and believable.

George Tooney (Josh Peck) is a school bully who has been beating up and harassing Sam Merric (Rory Culkin) for a while. Sam's older brother, Rocky (Travor Morgan), and Rocky's two friends, Marty (Scott Mechlowicz) and Clyde (Ryan Kelley), scheme up a plan to get back at George for bullying Sam. The plan is simple: invite George to a boating trip for Sam's fake birthday, strip George naked, throw him into the water, and have him walk all the way home naked. The entire gang is in on the plan. However, when Sam's girlfriend, Millie (Carly Schroeder), who's also going on the trip, finds out about the prank, she forces Sam to call it off, thinking it's not a good idea. Eventually the entire group knows the prank's been called off. However, the whole group, including George, are still on the boat sailing through the creek. Marty, the leader of the group, soon decides to anchor the boat and have everyone play a game of Truth-or-Dare. This Truth-or-Dare sequence is what soon causes the troubles the gang will face.

Throughout the entire film, not just the Truth-or-Dare scene, the themes of misunderstanding and peer-pressure are examined. The entire group, aside from Marty, realize that George isn't all that bad of a kid during the boating trip, and that George just has internal problems. George is peer-pressured into smoking and doing some other small things during the boating trip (although they weren't technically forced upon him). After the accident, the group is peer-pressured by Marty to keep everything a secret. All of the themes presented in 'Mean Creek' and the way they're brought out are extremely realistic.

We learn about each of the characters' background in 'Mean Creek.' Many of these characters have family issues and pasts that they don't want to talk about. The film shows us how us teenagers talk to one another in real life, without knowing that we may be offending one another a lot. We learn from the film that you need to be careful about what you say and what you do. Marty constantly harasses Clyde about his gay parents. George constantly harasses every single member of the gang during the boating trip, though we know he's just playing around. However, George's insults soon go too far, which sets off the main conflict of the movie.

I like how the film is so realistic in its depiction of teenagers and bullying and ways of dealing with conflict. The gang's reaction and aftermath of the events at the creek are very realistic as well. From viewing the trailer, I expected that the majority of the film would take place after the events of the boating trip. However, the majority of the film takes place before the boating trip and during the boating trip. The aftermath of the boating trip is more like an epilogue. I didn't like this at first, since I expected the film would delve deeper into the conflict, but I soon realized that it's a good thing. Since the majority of the film takes place before and during the boating trip, we learn more about George. We start to like him and his human side. Josh Peck does a great job at depicting George as a jerk, while at the same time, depicting him as a likable guy. The film's kind of short to me, and the ending kind of just ends, but it's not a bad ending. I surely think the ending could've been better, but it's okay enough for me. I think anyone would like this film, especially teenagers.
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jacob lamson18 February 2010
Mean Creek is something I can't do justice with words. It was heart wrenching. It was nearly perfect. It was everything I hoped it would be and more. People say to congratulate the young actors for their beautiful work in this film, and they're right, but who really needs the spotlight in this film is the writer/director. While Josh Peck does an amazing job at acting both the awful and kind sides of George, it was up to the writer and director to show both sides of the character. Also, this director (forgot his name), has created a beautiful portrayal of teen behavior, and of bullies. His script makes you feel sympathy for the bully, and it explains that he's not a one dimensional douchebag. The cinematography was another thing to note, as the shots of the river were jaw dropping and gorgeous, and then after the accident, everything looks dreary, and the river isn't quite as pretty. This reminded me of the book, The Red Kayak, because of when the main character of that book is looking out on the river at the beginning he explains how sparkling and clear it is and how it seems one with the world, but after the accident he looks at it as a killer. I will end up writing a novel if I keep on going with this review, so I'll just end by saying, watch this movie. If you have friends that like to joke when you're watching movies, don't invite them, they WILL ruin this film for you, as almost happened to me.
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My tenth favorite film of all time
sjtuplin5 April 2007
A kid. A bully. A brother. A brothers friends. A girl/friend. A plan. A life changing event. I Watched the trailer for this film for 2 years. I still remember the afternoon when I viewed this powerful film about a teen just trying to look after his brother. A film about the consequences of our actions. By the end it was hard to move and even harder to forget. The cast had some of the best chemistry I have ever seen. SPOILER WARNING: The most powerful scene is after George dies and all sit quietly. No music. No talking. Just silence, shaking, and blank stares. Then as the score begins the yelling and arguing does as well. They dig a grave and go home. In the end the dead teenager speaks his view of life on the videotape that was retrieved. His simple words get the last lines of the film.
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Excellent teen character study
F Gwynplaine MacIntyre30 January 2005
One of the greatest movies ever made is 'A Place in the Sun'. Based on a true murder case, this story features a protagonist who takes his pregnant ex-girlfriend on a boating trip with the intention of drowning her so he won't have to marry her. At the last moment, he has a pang of conscience (or did he just lose his nerve?) and he confesses his intentions to her ... but then the boat capsizes by accident, and she drowns anyway. The film refuses to let the protagonist off the hook, asserting that -- if he felt relieved by her death -- then he is morally guilty of murdering her.

SPOILERS COMING. 'Mean Creek' raises similar moral questions, in a plot line that evokes not only 'A Place in the Sun', but also 'River's Edge', 'Stand by Me' and 'Deliverance', the latter film even quoted in the dialogue. Four adolescent boys lure teenage George on a boating trip, intending to play a cruel prank on him. A girl comes along too, unaware of their intentions. When she learns what's planned, she persuades the conspirators to call off their plot. But then tragedy intervenes, and George drowns. How culpable are the boys? They literally dig themselves into a deeper hole by burying George's corpse, hoping to conceal the tragedy.

'Mean Creek' features some of the most realistic adolescent dialogue I've ever heard. The boys bait each other with insults that are misogynist and homophobic. (One boy, Clyde, has two gay fathers.) Although the dialogue pulls no punches, the camera set-ups pull several. At one point, a boy urinates into the river: we see the stream of urine but the boy is out of frame. The most aggressive of the boys, Marty, makes several boasts about his genital endowment. Eventually, he is goaded into dropping his shorts and showing his stuff: the camera shoots this scene from behind, so we never find out what the fuss is about.

Director/screenwriter Jacob Aaron Estes shows a great deal of talent, but makes a few strange decisions. At several points, the camera shows us printed words on a sign or a bumper sticker ... but then the camera pulls away, or the object recedes from the camera, before most of the audience can read what's written. The script is nearly as good as the dialogue, with splendid exposition and only a few pacing problems.

MORE SPOILERS. Very early in the film, we learn that Marty owns a handgun. Chekhov's rules of drama stipulate that if a gun shows up in the story, it must eventually be fired. The payoff for this weapon shows up very late in the film, in an unexpected way (and the gun is never fired). In this case, it would have been better if the gun had never been mentioned nor shown until Marty decided to use it. Throughout this film there is a running directorial conceit, with sequences shown from the P.O.V. of George's video camera, but there turns out to be a valid payoff for this.

Every performance in this movie is splendid. I was especially impressed with Rory Culkin (Macaulay's more talented brother), Carly Schroeder as the well-intentioned girl, and Josh Peck as fat unpopular George, who clearly wants to be popular yet can't help being unpleasant. I'll rate 'Mean Creek' 9 out of 10, and I look forward to more films from Jacob Aaron Estes.
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Not bad, but the basic premise is hard to believe
paulo2018 June 2006
Warning: Spoilers
This movie is reminiscent of the film Bully (2001), in which a group of kids are bullied by another kid, so they plot his death. Here, they don't plot the kid's death, but he ends up dead anyway. The other difference is, the bully in the film Bully seemed to deserve it, while the kid in this film didn't even seem to deserve the original intent, which was a prank to humiliate him (i.e. make him strip to his birthday suit, throw him in the creek and have him walk a considerable distance home that way).

Anyway, the film opens with the alleged bully (Josh Peck, from "Drake and Josh") adjusting his video camera so that he can film himself shooting hoops. Not long after, Rory Culkin enters the frame and messes with his camera. This prompts Peck to shout out in indignation and to beat up Rory Culkin, telling him that he warned him not to touch his camera. Now, I don't know about anyone else, but it seems if some aggressive fat kid who outweighs you by about 100 pounds, tells you not to touch his property or "he'll kill you", you listen. Unfortunately, this warning didn't take, and Rory Culkin ends up with a bruise on the side of his face.

My point here is that, while it may not be cool to get beat up for touching someone's camera, if the person was actually warned you not to do so and you do so anyway, I don't know if I'm inclined to feel any sympathy. Also, we're expected to believe that Little Kid is a frequent victim of the fat kid's attacks, but all we see is the incident of Culkin messing with Fat Kid's camera so we can only imagine instances where Fat Kid picks on Little Kid because he feels like it. At any rate, if someone beats on you a lot, wouldn't you stay as far away from that person as possible, as opposed to touching their stuff?

Anyway, seems that Rory Culkin has a big brother, not Macaulay or Kieran or any other Culkin in this case, but Trevor Morgan (the sarcastic, arrogant kid from The Sixth Sense) who seems like he and his friend, Tough Kid (Scott Mechlowicz) and Sensitive Kid (Ryan Kelley) can beat up Fat Kid (or at least tell him to back off). But high-falutin' Culkin has other ideas, saying that "if we hurt him, we're no better than he is. First off, seriously, do kids really talk like this? Second, like it's much better to make Fat Kid walk a long way home wet and naked? Anyway, most of the group have second thoughts and decide not to go through with it, except Tough Kid, who gets ticked off by Fat Kid initiates a Truth or Dare game and dares him to strip naked and jump in the water. However, the truth comes out that that was the intent all along, whereupon Fat Kid gets ticked and starts insulting the heck out of everyone, notably Tough Kid, whom he mocks about the suicide of his father, very loudly and obnoxiously. This ends up with Big Brother pushing Fat Kid into the drink. He screams frantically for help, but the other kids just stare at him for a while from the boat. Suddenly he bangs his head on an unseen rock, bleeds and goes unconscious. This breaks Big Brother out of his stupor and he belatedly jumps in to rescue him. But he and his friends are too late and so passes Fat Kid.

So, anyway, what's the idea there? Why would the others just let Fat Kid scream and flail around like that for a good minute before they do anything about it? That secretly they all want him dead, so they subconsciously decided to do nothing? Or are they just dumb? I'm going for the latter option, because this whole premise seems dumb. Not that the prank is realistic but most of these kids don't seem like the kind of people who'd go for that sort of thing. Indeed, most of them back out and say stupid things like "we did it because you were mean but then we liked you." Anyway, in the second half or so, the group decides to bury the body and make pretend it never happened. However, everyone, except Tough Kid, decides they can't carry that around with them for the rest of their lives and so decide to come clean. This part actually makes for compelling viewing. Unfortunately, the setup is rather weak, so the film isn't exactly what it could be.
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Great movie
Ref 6518 February 2008
Mean Creek shows the tale of a young boy who is bullied in school one day and he tells his brother and his brother gets his gang and makes a plan to get payback.The plan is to fake the little kids birthday and go on a boating trip in the woods.It all turns out that the bully is just a misunderstood kid that has problems in reading stop signs and minds his own business and likes filming stuff.Later,they decide to call the plan off but one lad doesn't want to abandon the plan and tries to make the plan work himself.Josh Peck stars in this movie and plays the part as the bully who is not a bully at all.I'm not a fan of the T.V show Drake and Josh but I watch it sometimes and I think that Josh Peck does a great job in this movie.

This is recommended to Drake and Josh fans and if you like drama movies.The acting was very good and had a few funny moments and memorable moments that won't go away.I would watch this again because I enjoyed this movie.
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Kids can be so cruel...
Coventry2 April 2006
"Mean Creek" is a captivating and powerful drama, surprisingly well-acted and genuinely movie WITHOUT turning to cheap sentiment and pointless moralizing. The often heard comparison with modest 80's masterpiece "Stand by Me" is reliable and well-earned, because Jacob Aaron Estes' long feature debut story regularly equals the intensity and grim ambiance of that terrific generation-defining portrait. Rory Culkin, who annoyed the hell out of me in "Signs", is really good this time as the amiable kid Sam bullied by the neighborhood's most feared fat kid George Tooney. His older brother Rocky calls in the help of rough, nihilistic Marty and together the come up with the terrific plan to teach chubby George a lesson. Needless to say their simple plan goes horribly wrong and the initially banal canoing trip will irreversibly ruin all the youthful participants' lives. Depite the grisly DVD-cover, "Mean Creek" is a very stylish and mannered film that patiently takes the time to introduce its characters and even subtly forces you to symphatize with all of them. Estes' cleverly delays and delays the crucial payback sequence until the ultimate moment when you absolutely don't want it to happen! The last ten minutes are more or less disappointing, but I honestly wouldn't have known how to terminate such a story neither, so that's fine. The filming locations are stunningly beautiful, the photography is enchanting and – as mentioned already – the acting performances are pretty amazing. There are as good as no adult characters in this film but the young cast members behave very professional and mature. Especially Carly Schroeder, the only girl in the group, is a promising young talent. Warmly recommended!
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Scott Mechlowicz
heyrob13 October 2005
Scott Mechlowicz was great. I like the way he sounds like a young Brad Pitt (same lazy lispy speech pattern). He's tough when he's the oldest in the group, and vulnerable with his older brother. I haven't seen Eurotrip yet, but now I'll have to, along with any other films he makes. I'm glad I rented this movie. The way the kids interact, the group dynamics, punching each other in the shoulder, using put downs was very realistic and must have been drawn from the author's real life experiences. They were too life-like to have just been thought up. Hopefully the rest of the movie was not based on anything real, as that would be sad. I thought the ending could have been better, but overall it was a good coming of age type film.
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Intelligent and powerful, and with teenagers you can actually believe
Adam Whyte10 April 2005
"Mean Creek," directed by Jacob Aaron Estes, tells a haunting story about a schoolboys' prank that goes wrong. It also features some of the most realistic teenagers I've ever seen in a movie. I've seen lots of teenagers in movies. So have you. Sometimes they're amusing, sometimes insightful, sometimes funny, sometimes stupid and annoying. But rarely do they actually reflect teenagers in real life; when real teenagers act like the "American Pie" crowd, it's probably only because they've seen "American Pie" and feel that they ought to. In "Mean Creek," they break out of the clichés and become characters with real depths, problems and insecurities.

The teenagers, however, don't take up the centre of the story; Sam, played by Rory Culkin, does. His age isn't specified, but I'd guess he is about 12; not yet wading through puberty, but sticking his toe in the water. He has a crush on his schoolmate Millie (Carly Schroeder), who has a crush on him too, and sits at home writing 'questions to ask Sam' in her diary. Millie and Sam seem to be, in some ways, a lot more mature than Sam's teenage brother, Rocky (Trevor Morgan), and Rocky's friends. Adolescence, while making the body more mature, seems, for a while at least, to have the opposite effect on the mind.

Sam is bullied at school by George (Josh Peck), an overweight, arrogant and lonely boy who films almost everything with his digital video camera. Rocky thinks they should get revenge on George by taking him out in a boat one day, playing Truth or Dare, and leaving him naked and stranded on the river bed.

Rocky hangs around with Marty (Scott Mechlowicz) and Clyde (Ryan Kelly). Marty is the most overbearing and arrogant of the group. It is revealed that his big brother bullies him, and his dad killed himself. Clyde is the most passive of the group, and Marty picks on him a lot because Clyde's dad is gay. Watching these kids together, I got a sense of a real group of people, rather than characters who simply advance the plot with every line of dialogue.

Having young people acting in a movie isn't always entirely successful, but this team pulls it off. Culkin is excellent; there is an interesting trend now amongst child stars to have depth and weight, rather than sugary cuteness (Haley Joel Osment, Dakota Fanning). Of the others I especially liked Ryan Kelly as Clyde. According to his profile on IMDb, he has been in 50 commercials since he was 2 years old; if he keeps getting roles as good as this, I doubt he'll have to do another 50.

Estes wrote and directed the movie, and it is quite an accomplishment for his first feature. In the last act of the movie, we get a sense that these kids are facing a real moral dilemma, and I believed in the way they reacted to the problem they found themselves in. Credit should also go to Sharon Meir, the cinematographer, who gives the movie a certain beauty without allowing the visuals to distract. The whole film feels both sombre and calming; it seems to work on the senses and intellect in different ways which complement each other.

Let me give you one example of what I'm talking about. The group finds itself in a difficult position – moral and practical – about two-thirds through the movie. They decide to each cut their hands as a sign that they will all keep their knowledge secret. Afterwards, Millie, so peaceful and thoughtful until now, takes the knife when no one is looking, walks over to a tree, and uses it to stab a snail. Later, Sam sees the dead snail and the knife. The editing and photography remain serene. Why did she do it? How did she feel about it? Did Sam realise it was her? I have my own ideas, and if you see the film, so will you. Good filmmakers don't spell everything out for you.
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Dark and and well made
browskiiix2318 May 2007
Warning: Spoilers
The film is very very well made, and it was much better than the advertisements lead me to believe. It also has a very dark storyline, it's about how a group of kids want to get even with a playground bully played by Josh Peck. It gets very interesting when the prank goes terribly wrong and they accidentally kill the bully. It's rare to see such a great cast in the film, each of the actors is very talented for being so young.

But if i had to give all the credit to one of the actors, i'd give it to Josh Peck, the character of the bully is a very strange character and it seems as though it would be difficult to create on screen, but Peck does an incredible job. One scene he's nice the next scene he's almost so terrible to the other characters, it's unsettling to watch. I give this movie a strong recommendation, for a great storyline, great performances, and a very well made film.
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Beautifully shot and brilliantly acted tragedy
Shawn Watson3 May 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Teen life isn't The OC. There's always something deeper occasionally sinister beneath the surface of seemingly ordinary kids. Some lash out, some keep it in and let it eat them alive. George is a fat kid with learning difficulties who eats alone in the cafeteria and aggressively bullies every other kid around him, especially Sam (Rory Culkin).

When enough is enough Sam gets help from his older brother's pal to set George up for a prank that will teach him a lesson. They go on a mock birthday boating trip with the intention of humiliating him. Trouble is, when George has people being nice to him he's very, very nice and quiet back to them. He has no clue of what their planning. Sam and his brother want to back down but the leader Marty won't leave it alone.

George is like the spawn of Satan and the son of God. His unpredictable manner throw the gang into a state of confusion over what to do with him. But he pushes his luck to far and ends up dead. Did he deserve it or not? It's entirely up to you.

Mean Creek is a sombre morality play that is as gritty and realistic as anything you'll witness in real life. Director Jacob Aaron Estes draws faultless performances out of his young cast, so much so that even when they are not speaking you can read what they are thinking in their eyes. He atmospherically captures the Pacific-Northwest countryside and pulls you into a engaging story without making it seem overbearing.

It's ironic that a realistic teen movie would be rated R instead of PG-13 but if you're a concerned parent worried whether or not this is suitable for younger kids then I would suggest you give it a shot. There's nothing suggestive about it and it might actually help your kids understand bullies rather than hating them. Either way, this is a great film for anyone who enjoys good acting and an involving story.
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