A homeschooling innovation brings opportunity and danger
For those turned off by the superficial base of recent young love movies (i.e., Twilight's Edward loves Bella because of her intoxicating smell, she falls for him because he's so beautiful), Rob Reiner's latest work, Flipped, offers a welcome change of pace.
When Juli Baker (Madeline Carroll) meets Bryce Loski (Callan McAuliffe) in the second grade, she's immediately smitten by his deep blue eyes. Bryce, on the other hand, finds Juli weird and her infatuation with him terrifying. But the six years that follow see major changes in both kids' lives. Bryce's grandfather (Frasier's John Mahoney) shows Bryce that the qualities that make Juli seem different from other girls are actually evidence of her integrity and courage. By the eighth grade it is Bryce who's flipped for his kind-hearted, hardworking neighbor and Juli who's no longer sure of her feelings for a boy who seems to grow more shallow and dishonest by the year.
Though told in a somewhat cutesy, sock-hop style, Flipped works well as a film about character that entertains the tween/teen set without preaching at them. As Juli matures and begins to question her long-held crush, we see something rarely done well in movies aimed at younger viewers: characters who grow. And though the film's end doesn't offer enough payoff for everything that has come before it, its two young stars infuse their characters' relationship with charm and authenticity.
All that said, one has to wonder why Reiner decided to insert into his PG family film language that will not only have some parents balking, but doesn't feel at all natural to the story. An s-word here and a playboy joke there aren't shocking these days, but in this case it feels as if Reiner included them solely so he could avoid a G rating.