A Heartless and Humorless Film
27 January 2005
I had the opportunity to attend the opening screening of "The Chumscrubber" at the Sundance Festival. Given the hype surrounding this picture, and its very talented cast, this film was a great disappointment.

The film centers on the life of Dean Stiffle, a high school student growing up in the suburbs of California. His father, played by William Fitchner, is the author of self help books. When Dean walks in to discover that his best friend has killed himself, he does not bother reporting this to the friend's parents, who are hosting a party. He later explains that he thought that no one would care.

Dean's reaction to the suicide sets the tone for this deeply cynical, yet unfunny, satire. As the convoluted plot continues to develop, a group of local thugs tries to coerce Dean to reclaim the drug stash of his dead friend. They do so by kidnapping a boy who they believe to be Dean's brother. However, they kidnap the wrong boy, leading to a confusion of identities, and many opportunities for humor that are quickly lost in this dense film.

The reaction at Sundance to this film was mixed, with perhaps half of the audience reacting as I did, and the other half claiming to have enjoyed it.

My take on this film is that is was entirely devoid of heart and humor, and failed in its attempts to entertain.

One scene that does work comes at the end of the film, between Dean (Jamie Bell) and the mother of his dead friend (played by Glenn Close). Dean is the only person to show up for his friend's memorial service, and he consoles the boy's mother.
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