Case Number 17224: Small Claims Court


MGM // 2007 // 99 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // September 10th, 2009

The Charge

Tough love sucks.

The Case

That's the takeaway from this odd movie, supposedly based on true events, detailing the craziness that goes down in a Boot Camp for troubled teens. The troubled teen at the center of this story is Sophie (Mila Kunis, That '70s Show), a mouthy young woman who makes fun of her parents in front of their friends. Apparently, this is such an egregious offense they arrange for Sophie to be carted off to a foreign island and enrolled in a program geared at breaking the spirit of jackass kids, making them nicer or something.

The head of this particular program is a guy named Norman Hail (Peter Stormare, Constantine), who's got a strong belief in the effectiveness of his treatment, as well as some skeletons in his closet. As Sophie's tenure crawls on and she attempts to break free of the island with her boyfriend in tow, the violence escalates and some good old Lord of the Flies action goes down.

This is a John Hughes movie on HGH. I am unacquainted with the particulars of the "tough love" programs this film is based on, though a rudimentary Web search reveals that a) there seems to be robust industry built around them, and b) there is controversy affixed to them that spans all ideologies. While I think tough love as an amorphous concept for dickhead teens isn't a bad idea, the kind of hardcore insanity depicted here strikes me as overboard.

As wacky as the island hijinks are, the conclusion the whole enterprise is sailing towards is predictable and hurts the film. The formula is tweaked in the beginning, when it appears the program may actually work and our main characters might actually benefit from the hard labor and emotional abuse. Then it all travels down the road of inevitability, culminating in a clumsy and corny final sequence, with the end titles expressly laying out the director's feelings on tough love boot camps (Hint: he's not a huge fan).

Mila Kunis does well bearing the brunt of the work, filling out a strong female character with gusto and spunk, and Stormare brings his typical shifty menace to an unlikable role. Both performances support a slick execution overall, which is knee-capped by predictability and an overwrought finale.

Nothing much going on with the DVD: 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, 5.1 surround, and no extras.

The Verdict

Not Guilty, but I'm not very enthusiastic about a recommendation.

Review content copyright © 2009 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 75

Perp Profile
Studio: MGM
Video Formats:
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)

* English

Running Time: 99 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* None

* IMDb