The film version of Flipped plays out like a bobby-socked Breaking Dawn (the last Twilight book to you cool people), annoyingly alternating between two perspectives of a passionless romance. Luckily, in this case, the main characters are somewhat interesting (sorry, post-vamp baby Bella and Jacob). Unfortunately, you can’t really say the same for their dialogue.
While there are a handful of cute conversations between tweenage lovebirds, Bryce and Juli, who are the centre of the simple schoolyard romance, most of their story goes on in their heads. As a result, large chunks of the film consist of the young actors staring at each other awkwardly while one of their voices explains their actions. It’s like they’re doing a cold reading of the book over stock footage.
We end up analyzing every moment of their curious courtship in intense detail. It all seems real – we’ve all made too much of a look, or a misread word – but real isn’t a synonym for interesting. It’s like when your friend gives you a minute-by-minute play-by-play of her last date. You’re listening, trying to get into the mild excitement, but when it comes down to it, you’re only half there.
That is not to say the actors playing Bryce and Juli are emotionless or unengaging. In fact, they’re the best part of this lukewarm family drama. Newcomers Callan McAuliffe and Madeline Carroll have great chemistry, especially when they’re bickering, making you believe that they may grow to like each other and become junior high school sweethearts after all.
The adults are not so memorable. Anthony Edwards is way overdone as the Bryce’s dad, turning what could have been a seriously sad character into a Lifetime caricature. I guess Goose really is dead. Aidan Quinn is slightly better as Juli’s artsy pop, but not by much. John Mahoney is the best of the big names, although his character (Bryce’s wise grandpa) is nothing more than a YA Yoda.
The main problem with Flipped is it is a Rob Reiner film. We automatically expect a lot out of Reiner, who perfected the coming-of-age saga (Stand By Me) and gender-defying romantic comedy (The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally…). What we get is more in line with his more recent, lifeless fare (saggy sap-fest, The Bucket List, mediocredramedies like Rumour Has It… and Alex & Emma).
Flipped works purely on a nostalgic level. At least for a select few. ’50s fetishists will die for the hazy, vintage photo, Virgin Suicides cinematography, Dirty Dancing-esque soundtrack and perfectly proper pencil and poodle skirts. And from what I hear, fans of the book will, well, flip for the depiction of their precious little love story. But if you don’t fit into either of those categories, you’re pretty much, uh, well let’s just say it also starts with f and ends with ed. C