Reiner’s “Flipped” is a charming, old-fashioned surprise
What director Rob Reiner really has “flipped” with his latest film is Hollywood’s typically cynical look at 50s and 60s-era Americana and churned out a sweet but subtly powerful film about budding romance. There really hasn’t been a film that aspired to be on the big screen what “The Wonder Years” (one of the best series of the past three decades) was to TV. “Flipped” is not perfect, but its aspirations are admirable, and its execution is surprisingly effective considering (or maybe because of) its unadulterated sentimentality.
Since 2nd grade, Juli (Madeline Carroll) has had a smothering crush on Bryce (Callan McAuliffe), the boy across the street with the “dazzling eyes.” For his part, Bryce wants no part of his nutty neighbor who loves the neighborhood Sycamore tree so much she refuses to climb out of it and cries crocodile tears when they come to chop it down. The central device is each kid’s perspective on junior high life spelled out clearly in a voiceover narrative which starts plainly and ends up being more profound than you might expect.
From Juli’s vantage point we see her love of raising chickens and sharing the eggs with Bryce’s family. Then things get “flipped,” we see Bryce’s view of the same situation, including his stern father’s (Anthony Edwards of “E/R”) callous judgment and how it influences Bryce’s reaction.
In addition to Edwards, Reiner (“Stand by Me,” “When Harry Met Sally”) has cast good actors for the parents including Aidan Quinn, Penelope Ann Miller and Rebecca De Mornay. Especially good as the wise and tender grandpa figure is John Mahoney (“Frasier”). If it weren’t for the believability of the young lead actors however, “Flipped” might have fallen apart. Both kids look wholesome yet vulnerable and represent an age when innocence was cherished and cynicism had not yet pervaded our culture.
Reiner (who made the similarly-themed and equally excellent “The Sure Thing”) doesn’t avoid conflict here. In fact, because it isn’t played for sensationalism or shock value the heartbreak is far more effective.
Along with capturing the early 60s era down to every detail and a terrific Everly Brothers-heavy soundtrack, “Flipped” is the kind of film parents would love to see their own kids experience because it was a time, for the most part, worth remembering.
It’s a hard sell, but that doesn’t make “Flipped” any less special.
Rated PG for language and thematic material.