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PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > Movie Reviews > The Wheeler Boys

MOVIE REVIEWS

THE WHEELER BOYS (2010)

Starring Lorenzo James Henrie, Alex Frost, Bill Campbell, Portia Doubleday, Haley Ramm, Olivia Crocicchia, Connor Price, Joshua Logan Moore, Greer Grammer, Adam Cagley, Christian Alexander and Tessa Auberjonois.

Screenplay by Philip G. Flores and Max Doty.

Directed by Philip G. Flores.

Distributed by Netflix and Film Independent.  91 minutes.  Not Rated.

 

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The Wheeler Boys 

The Wheeler Boys is one of the least sexy films to revolve completely around sex and violence ever made. 

I suppose that the filmmakers do deserve some sort of credit for refusing to exploit the seamy storyline that they have ripped from the headlines – that of a club of teenaged boys which made a pact to have sex with as many freshman girls as possible, gaining points dependent on the looks of their conquest and which specific act was performed. 

However, one sort of has to wonder, if you are not going to exploit an explosive subject like that, what really is the point of telling the story?  No one questions the fact that the boys are shallow, superficial and wrong, so why bother to dramatize their exploits unless you are really going to get down and dirty with it? 

The Wheeler Boys actually reminds me somewhat of Larry Clark’s Kids, except it is afraid to get down and dirty in the ways that Kids did.  Much if not all of the shocking things which happen here occur off camera, which somewhat neuters the premise to seem like it is Kids remade as a TV movie. 

As is, The Wheeler Boys is a stylishly shot but ultimately slightly empty coming-of-age drama. 

This is interesting because this script had serious buzz behind it.   In fact the script won the Netflix “Find Your Own Voice” script competition to win grants and free film to allow it to be filmed while so many other scripts never arrive at that point. 

So what is it, besides its somewhat scandalous subject matter that the judges saw in this project? 

On the plus side, co-writer/director Philip G. Flores has a good ear for natural dialogue, a way of bringing out the most in his cast and an interesting visual eye.  However, on the down side, he takes a potentially explosive story idea and can barely bring it to a simmer.  His male characters are cartoonish and his female ones are either sluts or doormats or both. 

The film was made on the cheap with a mostly unknown cast.  The only recognizable faces here are Billy Campbell (of The Rocketeer, Once & Again and The 4400) in the small and somewhat thankless role of the title characters’ crippled and bitter father and Portia Doubleday (Youth In Revolt) as one of the brothers’ pregnant girlfriend. 

The main thrust of the film is of the Wheeler brothers.  Truck (Alex Frost) is in his late teens and has a pregnant girlfriend.  He has been caring for his younger brother Ted (Lorenzo James Henrie) and their dad for years.  To blow off steam, he hangs out with his buddies who drink, fight, brand each other and make a contest of nailing as many girls as they can. 

The film looks at the subtle shift in Ted and Truck’s relationship when the virginal Ted joins up with Truck’s group.  Suddenly Truck sees him as a man and stops protecting him – allowing Ted to spiral into more and more trouble and become disenchanted with his older brother because he cheats on his pregnant girlfriend. 

If this all sound familiar, it should, because this is all Indie Screenwriting 101 – rural chapter.  It is done with more verve and skill than many, but in the long run The Wheeler Boys has very little of substance to say – down to the much too ambivalent final shot. 

On the evidence of his first film, Flores does have the skill to grow into a director to keep an eye on.  Now he just has to come up with a story interesting enough to reward our watching.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2010 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: July 9, 2010.

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Copyright ©2010  PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: July 9, 2010.