The Chumscrubber

on August 05, 2005 by Francesca Dinglasan
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An impressive A-list ensemble cast is not enough to save "The Chumscrubber," an uninspired satire on sanitized suburban life. Although punctured with the occasional stinging observation or scrap of dialogue, Arie Posin and Zac Stanford's onscreen collaboration feels derivative, a rehashed exposé of middle-class banality more fruitfully explored in such films as "American Beauty" and Ang Lee's "The Ice Storm."

The self-contained universe of sprawling homes and manicured lawns at the heart of "The Chumscrubber" is revealed to viewers through the eyes of Dean (Jamie Bell), a loner in the mold of James Dean (for whom the character is clearly named), totally disconnected from classmates and family alike. His self-isolated existence gets turned upside-down when he stumbles onto the dead body of his only acquaintance, a neighboring school chum who hangs himself. Dean decides not to tell anyone, letting the adult community, comprised of self-absorbed and prescription-drugged zombies, make the discovery themselves.

Matters get messier when a trio of Dean's fellow high schoolers--Billy (Justin Chatwin), Lee (Lou Pucci) and Crystal (Camilla Belle)--go after him to retrieve some property from the dead boy's room. It seems that the deceased served as the local drug dealer, and his suicide was not going to keep the straight-outta-da-'Burbs posse from getting its goods. When Dean refuses, the gang attempts to kidnap his little brother for ransom, but they end up grabbing the wrong kid. Slapstick-esque adventure follows as Dean half-heartedly works to "rescue" the nabbed boy, anyway. The grown-ups provide no help, least of all the missing kid's mom (Rita Wilson), who is overly occupied with her impending nuptials to the town mayor (Ralph Fiennes), himself experiencing some sort of New-Agey metamorphosis.

Though the mindlessness and dreariness of suburbia continues to be ripe for big-screen skewering, "The Chumscrubber" (whose title refers to a video game with metaphoric representation played throughout the film) never quite fulfills its potential. The plodding narrative moves along by continually poking fun at the community's denizens, including Crystal's flirty mom (Carrie-Anne Moss), who competes with her daughter for male attention, and the suicide victim's seemingly spaced-out mother (Glenn Close), who reacts to her son's death by spewing out nonsense to her neighbors. The jabs, however, are more lightweight knocks than drag-down punches, falling short of delivering on what was most likely the script's more ironic intent.

Not without its moments--Wilson and Close's neighboring characters arguing over street parking spots for their respective wedding and funeral guests, for example--"The Chumscrubber" is nonetheless as empty as the environment it attempts to depict. Starring Jamie Bell, Ralph Fiennes, Rita Wilson, Carrie-Anne Moss, Allison Janney, Glenn Close, Camilla Belle, Justin Chatwin and Lou Pucci. Directed by Arie Posin. Written by Zac Stanford. Produced by Bonnie Curtis and Lawrence Bender. A Picture House release. Drama/Comedy. Rated R for language, violent content, drug material and some sexuality. Running time: 102 min

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