Genius Products // 2007 // 90 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // January 29th, 2009
You don't need to be young to be young at heart.
Twelve-year-old Casey (Jordy Benattar, The Spiderwick Chronicles) and her grandfather, Charlie (Tom Bosley, Happy Days), are best friends. The pair spend time together every day after school. They play games at the local senior center, go to the movies, and have all sorts of fun together. On one of their regular trips to the cinema, something terrible happens. Charlie suffers a heart attack and is rushed to the hospital. The doctors discover that Charlie's heart is in such bad shape that surgery wouldn't do any good. They tell Charlie that he could have greater longevity if he signs up for some clinical trials, but the medication he would be on would essentially prevent him from being able to live an active life. Charlie says he needs think about it. Should he simply live his life to the fullest for a short period of time or attempt to last a little bit longer? How will Casey cope with her grandfather's poor health? How will it affect their relationship?
Charlie & Me is emotionally manipulative on a grand scale. Here is a film that is shameless in its attempts to jerk tears from the eyes of viewers. There isn't really a middle ground to take with this film. This is not a film that allows the viewer to say, "Eh, it was okay." You'll either despise it or be intensely moved, depending on how willing you are to let a film yank on your heartstrings. Quite honestly, I land in the former camp. There isn't enough honesty in the film to temper all of the conveniently weepy situations.
Allow me to share a few of the film's moments with you, and you draw your own conclusions:
Charlie has a heart attack and is unconscious in the hospital. Initially, the doctors want to operate, but there are no adult relatives around to make a decision (Casey's father is on a business trip in Asia). Casey lies to the doctors and tells them that she spoke to her father over the phone, and that he doesn't want them to operate. The doctors later learn that an operation would probably have been fatal. The little girl who followed her gut instinct was right, and the stupid logical doctors were wrong. The film continues to point this out on a regular basis.
Casey is taken away from the scene of her grandfather's heart attack in a police car. One of the officers asks her if she has been in a police car before. "Yes," she says. "I was in a car wreck when I was four. My mother died."
Casey's father is always working and doesn't seem to have much time to spend with his daughter. On at least a dozen occasions throughout the film, he sees sick old grandpa spending quality time with Casey, and begins to feel increasingly guilty each time until he reaches his big crying scene.
Speaking of big crying scenes, there are at least 10 during the final half-hour of Charlie & Me. I'm not exaggerating.
A kind-hearted woman who was dating the stupid logical doctor I mentioned earlier decides to break up with the doctor and start dating Casey's father. Stupid logical doctors have no heart, obviously.
Casey is supposed to give a big presentation at school, but she can't figure out which subject to speak on. Ultimately, she decides to speak about the heart. "We have two hearts," she says. She then goes on to talk about how her grandfather who has a weak heart has a very big second heart, and how a kid with a healthy heart can have a broken heart.
Casey and Charlie discuss the music of Louis Armstrong approximately every 10 minutes. Ultimately, it is revealed that Charlie's favorite moment in life was the time he met Louis Armstrong. Of course, Charlie eventually tells Casey that his new favorite moments in life are the ones he spent with her. Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World" plays over the film's finale.
Lots of misty-eyed speeches like this one are included: "I've had about as much joy as any human being deserves. You and I have taken a lot of this journey together. You can be sad for a while -- maybe two weeks or a month. A month would be just about right for a sentimental old coot like me. I'll miss you. My best moments were with you."
I could honestly go on and on with examples of the sort of film that this is, but I think you get the picture. Add in an extremely maudlin piano-and-strings score, and you've pretty much got Charlie & Me. Tom Bosley is a solid actor, but he's forced to do the smiling, warm, slightly cantankerous sweet-old-man thing that has been the fate of so many older actors appearing in made-for-television films. Jordy Benattar has some charisma, but her role as "the spunky young girl" feels oh-so-familiar.
The transfer is perfectly adequate, nothing more and nothing less. The bright colors are conveyed with surprising softness, and there is just a bit of bleeding from time to time. Otherwise, I have nothing to complain about. The audio presents the painfully sappy dialogue and music with general clarity and balance. There are no extras on the disc.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Genius Products
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated