Image Entertainment // 2009 // 93 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Adam Arseneau (Retired) // October 20th, 2011
He's not cool...he's just Peck.
Coming-of-age comedies are a dime a dozen these days, but Just Peck avoids just enough glaring genre stereotypes to stay out of critical trouble.
Peck (Keira Gilchrist, United States of Tara) is your average, everyday teen...literally. He's so normal, he's practically invisible. His parents are overprotective and refuse to let him join the wrestling team, preferring him to enter the science fair. But once he meets Emily (Brie Larson, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World), Peck realizes he needs to be more than just Peck.
Just Peck is the Switzerland of teen comedies. It is utterly inoffensive and completely without controversy, avoiding all conflict. Where other coming-of-age comedies dive into raunchy humor, Just Peck stays neutral. Where other films delve deep into teenage angst and existentialist John Hughes-style meandering, Just Peck stays neutral.
Neutral isn't necessarily bad. Just Peck avoids excessive cliché by sticking to a simple, straightforward story about a nerdy teenager that feels believable, because it isn't full of the ridiculousness and gimmicks that plague other teen comedies. As a protagonist, Peck mirrors the film itself -- solidly average in every way, not particularly funny, not particularly troublesome or controversial. Given how outlandish some films in this genre can be, Just Peck is almost refreshingly normal.
The jaded, psudo-romantic interest Emily, on the other hand, is a character surgically removed from a much better film and plopped into this one. Hers is a fantastic performance, played expertly by Brie Larson in a sassy-yet-tortured way that would make a 1980s Molly Ringwald green with envy. When Peck's outright boringness wears thin, Emily brings the film back to relevancy. Of all the characters, hers has the most authenticity.
Peck's parents, on the other hand, probably have the least credibility, but Adam Arkin (A Serious Man) and Marcia Cross (Desperate Housewives) play their roles with enough straight-faced enthusiasm you barely notice. Their parenting style comes straight out of How to Be a Modern Parent 101, with predictably amusing results.
Then we get to the third act, in which things derail more spectacularly than an explosion at a railway yard. After two relatively innocuous acts, the film descends into zaniness worthy of a Disney Channel pre-teen comedy in which the adults get hilarious comeuppance in epic slapstick fashion. It is painful to watch; doubly so when you contemplate the spiral of Camryn Manheim's (Ghost Whisperer) career. She plays the robotic high school principal, and...no, I can't even. Just turn the film off after an hour. You'll be much better for it.
Just Peck has a predictably average technical treatment: 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and Dolby 5.1 surround. Colors are respectable but underwhelming; black levels are average and detail is clean. Dialogue is clear and unremarkable, with infrequent action in the rear channels and low bass response.
In terms of extras -- there are none. So that part was quick to review.
A lighthearted, average teen drama, Just Peck hits enough of the right notes to be a satisfactory view. It is pedantic enough to be family friendly, but the characters are honest enough to be believable, in a boring sort of way.
Harmless, just like Peck himself.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Image Entertainment
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 93 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated