When you're flicking through the channels, chances are you've seen Josh Peck's face in the always-on kid's comedy show 'Drake & Josh' - and then flicked over just as quick as you arrived. But there's far more to Peck than just a daytime TV favourite: he was superb as the victim/bully in 2004's 'Mean Creek' and now he has another fine film to add to his CV with 'The Wackness', Jonathan Levine's New York coming-of-age drama.
Set in the summer of 1994, 'The Wackness' follows Luke (Peck), a small-time cannabis dealer and rap fanatic who's just graduated from high school. One of his best clients is Doctor Squires (Kingsley), a psychiatrist and stepfather of Luke's classmate Stephanie (Thirlby) who trades therapy sessions for $10 bags. Both misfits, with more to offer than they can accept, an unlikely friendship develops between them.
In Luke, Squires sees the young life he messed up and tries to get the teenager to believe in himself; in Squires Luke gets an older male figure he can open up to. And the biggest worry on Luke's mind is girls, or rather the lack of them. He's obsessed with Stephanie (Thirlby), but Squires warns him that they're not suited. Given that youth is seldom spared folly, Luke decides to pursue her.
If you're one of those people who thinks that Kingsley has been in far too many duds since 2004's 'House of Sand and Fog', then this is a film for you to see. As the bumbling, lost and well-meaning Squires he gives another great performance, and at times it's heart-rending watching him. His equal in every scene is Peck: the chemistry between them is superb and this is one of the better screen partnerships this year.
Levine's film is about people who sell themselves short and write themselves off, both in terms of what they have to offer to others and themselves. Throughout 'The Wackness' he shows him self adept at rummaging around in the male psyche - nothing that either man or boy says feels unauthentic, and in both male audience members will see themselves.
The female characters don't fare as well. While both Thirlby and Janssen (as Kingsley's jaded wife) are good, their characters could have been developed more and had more scenes together. But perhaps that's a different film for Levine to think about making.
Until then, you've got one that's poignant, funny and leaves you with plenty to think about. Oh, and with a great soundtrack too.