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  • Mean Creek (2004)

    *** 1/2 (out of 4)

    Five teens take a local bully out into the woods to teach him a lesson but things take a tragic turn. The great thing about message boards is you can read other people's opinions and check out a film you normally would have passed over. After all the praise this film got I checked it out and really enjoyed the thing. The only problem is some obvious things lifted from Stand By Me and Deliverance but on the whole this is a pretty incredible little gem. The story doesn't have any false steps and I was pleased with the ending. The film manages to be very funny and that mixes well with the more sad and depressing aspects.
  • MEAN CREEK reminds me a lot of Stephen King's STAND BY ME and William Golding's LORD OF THE FLIES, looking at the issue of childhood bullying and exploring what happens when the tables are turned on a bully by one of his victims.

    It's a haunting, evocative, beautifully shot little movie, one of those low budget indie efforts that eschews special effects and melodrama in favour of solid characterisation and tight, focused scripting. You get caught up in the lives of the characters right from the outset and the film keeps you glued to the screen until the last moments.

    The young cast members are excellent, bringing to life the grittiness and authenticity of the storyline. As the bully, Josh Peck is particularly engaging, remaining an irritating and unpleasant character throughout but somehow eliciting sympathy from the audience at the same time. All in all, this is a tough, uncompromising little movie that proves a refreshing alternative to the latest Hollywood blockbuster.
  • George Tooney (Josh Peck) is a foul-mouthed big kid obsessed with his video camera. Sam Merrick (Rory Culkin) gets into a fight with him and gets beaten up. Sam tells his older brother Rocky who starts planning revenge with his friends Clyde and Marty Blank. They lure George on a fake birthday trip for Sam. Millie (Carly Schroeder) finds George loud but not necessarily mean-spirited. She convinces Sam to change his mind. Despite the change, a conflict escalates on the trip going down the creek.

    This is River's Edge with younger kids. That is very compelling. The kids are solid actors. They feel real. After the incident, they need time living with the secret. It would be nice to have more conflict time as the cops search for missing George. The second half is set up for more drama.
  • In Oregon, when the bully George Tooney (Josh Peck) beats his schoolmate Sam Merric (Rory Culkin), his older brother Rocky (Trevor Morhan) schemes a prank with his two also teenager friends Clyde (Ryan Kelley) and Marty (Scott Mechlowicz) seeking revenge. They invite George, Sam and his girlfriend Millie (Carly Schroeder) to a boat trip along the river, with the intention of humiliating George and get even. However, Millie convinces Sam to call off the plan and the boys accept in spite of the reluctant Marty. When they decide to play "truth or dare" in the middle of the river, the truth about the prank is disclosed to George and he offends the boys mostly the traumatized Marty, leading the group to an accident with tragic consequences.

    "Mean Creek" is a simple, real, powerful and impressive story. The first point that calls the attention is the performances of this young generation of promising and talented actors and actress. I hope they have the same luck of Coppola's boys of "Rumble Fish" and "The Outsiders". The story teaches in a hard way that for each action that we take there are consequences. Further, this is the first honest film that exposes the problematic relationship of an adolescent with gay parents with his friends. "Mean Creek" is certainly one of the best coming-to-age movies that I have ever seen and therefore highly recommended inclusive for teenagers. The Brazilian title is simply awful. My vote is nine.

    Title (Brazil): "Pacto Maldito" ("Damned Pact")
  • Warning: Spoilers
    When a teen (Rory Culkin) is bullied, his brother and friends lure the bully into the woods to seek vengeance.

    While this film is highly predictable, that does nothing to take away from it. The simple plot of revenge gone wrong is not judged by the plot itself but by its execution. And the execution here is rather well done. Not perfect, mind you, but quite good just the same.

    George (Josh Peck) is a difficult character. While it is hard to love him, there is definitely an emotional divide: do we dislike him or feel sorry for him? Can we do both simultaneously? The film tests the audience as much as it tries to expose the world of bullies.

    There are a few questionable plot switches later on in the film, but nothing completely unbelievable. More surprising is how much the film focuses on building up to the key moment rather than dealing with it after the fact. The third act is short, leaving many questions in its wake.
  • jboothmillard10 June 2011
    Warning: Spoilers
    I spotted this film purely because of two of the cast members, both child actors, and I might have read the plot as well and thinking it sounded like something I'd like to see, so I did. Basically in a small town of Oregon, young Sam Merrick (Signs' Rory Culkin, Macaulay's brother) is being constantly bullied and beaten up by local school overweight bully George Tooney (Josh Peck, star of Drake & Josh), and he wants payback. So he tells his older brother Rocky (Jurassic Park III's Trevor Morgan), and he comes up with a plan to pretend it's Sam's birthday and "invite" George on a boating trip in order to dare him to strip and swim in the river, and force him to run home naked. So Sam and his brother, joined by Rocky's friends Clyde (Ryan Kelley) and Marty (EuroTrip's Scott Mechlowicz), and Sam's girlfriend Millie (Carly Schroeder) are all together, and George joins them with seemingly no intention to be nasty. They get everything ready, and George seems pleasant and just lonely needing friendship and attention, and so begins the boating down the river, getting to know each other. Sam and the friends see a new light with George, believing he is a nice kid after all, and they think to call off the plan, but a traumatised Marty isn't swayed. So it comes to the point in the trip where they begin a game of Truth or Dare, and that is when Marty decides to reveal the truth to George, and that is when the bully side of him does come out. It is with the mention and repeating of the fact that Marty's father shot himself in the head that the bully is pushed off the side of the boat, and they sit back and see him unable to swim. They realise then however that he is drowning, and despite retrieving him the water they are unable to resuscitate him and he is dead. Marty says they will be arrested and put in prison if they try to tell what happened, so they bury the body in the woods, and agree not to tell anyone anything that happened. They are all filled with guilt however, and in the end, apart from Marty who robs and goes fugitive, Sam, Rocky, Millie and Clyde go to George's mother and tell the truth, and the police uncover the body, and the last thing we see is a video made by George before he died, about wanting someone to understand him. Also starring James W. Crawford as Tom, Michael Fisher-Welsh as Mr. Levinworth, Raissa Fleming as Maggie Tooney and Kaz Garas as Detective Wright. It is obviously a low budget independent film, but with a cast of great young and adolescent actors, Culkin, Morgan, Mechlowicz and Peck standing out best, a gripping story and interesting material it is a great coming-of-age drama. Very good!
  • I got uncomfortable sometimes during Mean Creek's second act, which is precisely what the filmmakers intentions were. I even flipped the channel for a second or two when things became a little too uneasy between the kids in the boat. I could relate to this situation very much, of kids who have no idea really how temporal everything is, and how the maturity level of almost everyone involved waxes and wanes and has to truly be tested for change to occur. In the case of Mean Creek's characters, this ends up happening through the main tragedy of the film. It's main figure, a fat kid with some problems of his own, ends up having to cause this change through his own undoing. But it's not even about that as really the cost of a life that young and ignorant; it's the atmosphere of fear, contempt, revenge, and spite that ends up drawing the characters to their main focus of conscience.

    The last act that measures this is strong up to a point; it sort of ends a little abruptly and suddenly and oddly (the mother AND Culkin's character going out to that certain spot, not believable to me). And the actors in general are quite good for their age if a little spotty too. But there was rarely a moment, particularly for the first half, that I didn't buy into. It's almost like one of those true-crime case stories put to dramatization, yet infused with that spirit of the Larry Clark &/or Harmony Korine films. These kids are really on the fringe, and it's there where they can get pushy, nasty, funny (in a childish way), and estranged from leading something of a "normal" life. It's a good, sometimes really intense film about dysfunctional ties between family, friends, and foes in those damned adolescent years, and a kind of extreme case that had me glued to the screen, whenever it wasn't too close to home anyway.
  • "Mean Creek" is a captivating and powerful drama, surprisingly well-acted and genuinely movie WITHOUT turning to cheap sentiment and pointless moralizing. The often heard comparison with modest 80's masterpiece "Stand by Me" is reliable and well-earned, because Jacob Aaron Estes' long feature debut story regularly equals the intensity and grim ambiance of that terrific generation-defining portrait. Rory Culkin, who annoyed the hell out of me in "Signs", is really good this time as the amiable kid Sam bullied by the neighborhood's most feared fat kid George Tooney. His older brother Rocky calls in the help of rough, nihilistic Marty and together the come up with the terrific plan to teach chubby George a lesson. Needless to say their simple plan goes horribly wrong and the initially banal canoing trip will irreversibly ruin all the youthful participants' lives. Depite the grisly DVD-cover, "Mean Creek" is a very stylish and mannered film that patiently takes the time to introduce its characters and even subtly forces you to symphatize with all of them. Estes' cleverly delays and delays the crucial payback sequence until the ultimate moment when you absolutely don't want it to happen! The last ten minutes are more or less disappointing, but I honestly wouldn't have known how to terminate such a story neither, so that's fine. The filming locations are stunningly beautiful, the photography is enchanting and – as mentioned already – the acting performances are pretty amazing. There are as good as no adult characters in this film but the young cast members behave very professional and mature. Especially Carly Schroeder, the only girl in the group, is a promising young talent. Warmly recommended!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Welcome to a teen's world. Sam(Rory Culkin) breaks down and admits to his over protective brother Rocky(Trevor Morgan)that the school bully George(Josh Peck)has been beating him on a daily basis. To get revenge and payback George his due, the two boys come up with a well thought plan, almost perfect plan. Rocky gathers some of his pals and Sams' girlfriend Millie(Carly Schroeder)for a ride to the woods and a float trip down the river. The plan is to make George get naked and jump in the river as the others leave, forcing the bully to walk home without his clothes. The perfect prank goes bad, very bad.

    This movie is well directed by Jacob Aaron Estes, who also wrote MEAN CREEK. And why they call a river a creek, don't know. But this is a pretty accurate look at life through the eyes of a teen. Also in the cast: Scott Mechlowicz, Ryan Kelly, Brandon Williams and Heath Lourwood.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Nearly all movies are about movies in some way. Some of the best do this explicitly. This is one of the best.

    Yes, it is tightly made. Yes, the kids do well, at least the key ones: the designated watchers (Sam and Millie) and the kid from whence the film comes, Fatty. But what makes projects like this work is the structure: here the "Blair Witch" structure where all truth is in the video. We even enter this video before we enter the movie proper.

    The big question is whether we will tell. Whether we will allow ourselves to admit that our accidents follow a script, or as one of the murders says: fate.

    I don't know how many different varieties of the technique can be invented: of films within films that collapse upon themselves. But for now there is a neverending supply, and of them this is clever and powerful.

    Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
  • Familiar but still Engaging Story of Teen Trouble. The Acting Ensemble is Peerless and the Style of the Movie is Low-Key and Hauntingly Attractive. The Interaction among the Group is Authentic and never Strained. The Dialog is Sharp and Intelligent.

    But there are Two Major Flaws that keep this from being Absolutely Compelling. First the Bully Character is not Developed enough Initially to Solidify the Central Theme. Second, the Third Act Demonstrates a Weak Resolution that Raises too many Questions and that Intrudes and Separates the Audience from the Film.

    The Group's Behavior up to that point was Well Thought Out and Spot On. However, as Things Unfold, it seems to go Astray in an Ending that is neither Quite Believable or Satisfying. There is much to Praise in the Director's First Film, but adapting the Premise of some Very Fine Movies, that are so Similar that Comparisons are Inevitable, there must be some sort of Hook to set it apart and in that, this Film Fails to Deliver.
  • Good, but not great. Thought-provoking but not profound. While you can see the moral quandaries faced by the kids, the end result is quite tame.

    Decent performances all round.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "Mean Creek" is at times so riveting, tense and portentous that you forget you're watching a movie; it feels like you're watching the filming of real events as they're unfolding before your eyes. This is all the more impressive considering that this was the feature-length directing and writing debut of Jacob Aaron Estes, and that he is working almost exclusively with child and teen actors: they are all terrific, but Josh Peck is the revelation. If you only know him from Nickelodeon's "Drake and Josh", boy you're in for a surprise! The locations are magnificent, and may inspire you to take a creek trip some weekend. My only reservation has to do with the abrupt ending; I would have liked to see the story continue. *** out of 4.
  • After Sam (Rory Culkin) gets beat up by that fat kid from "Spun" (as if to say "This is for 'It runs in the Family', punk), his brother lures him into the woods under the charade of a nice friendly boat trip. Needless to say, things don't go as planned (they rarely do in these type of films). In the fat kids defense he's a fat nerd (however annoying) and Sam DID touch his video camera, so the little a-hole was asking for it. The acting is perfectly adequate, but the soundtrack is horrible. All in all a perfectly OK film, not the masterpiece that so many seem to praise it as, but just fine.

    My Grade: C+
  • Children and adolescents can sometimes be hopelessly cruel. That much we know. It seems that with the creation of the internet and social media the actions of children and adolescents seem to have gotten worse. That much we also know. But even the most devious children are not robbed of a tight, moral core which recognizes when something is wrong because of their actions. It's true, however, that some children possess nihilistic tendencies, but many children do indeed have a core that allows them to sympathize and recognize when they are in danger or at fault.

    Jacob Aaron Estes' Mean Creek is a beautiful little tone-poem of a film, exploring the aforementioned concept with piercing reality and humanism. Through a band of tremendous character actors, ranging from ages ten and elven to seventeen and eighteen, Estes creates an intimate portrayal of coping with a tragedy when the blame is partially on you. This would be a difficult thing for an adult to stomach. For young adolescents, it's absolutely merciful on the mind and wellbeing.

    The film opens with a young Sam (Rory Culkin) being beaten, harassed, and viciously assaulted by George (Josh Peck), a chubby dyslexic kid with no real friends. Despite his easy-going and often forgiving nature, Sam holds onto this beating and goes along with the plans of his older brother Rocky (Trevor Morgan) and his friends Clyde (Ryan Kelley) and Marty (Scott Mechlowicz) of getting George back by taking him out to the middle of a lake on a boat, initiating a game of truth or dare to get him to strip, and having him jump into the water and leaving him stranded.

    Sam takes his young girl friend Millie (Carly Schroeder) along. A cute little blonde, she immediately doesn't approve of what him and his gang of buddies are doing. Even when Sam attempts to call off the plan, as George seems like a well-meaning, if troubled and uneven soul, the plan remains on as directed by the ringleader Marty, who eggs George on to the point where he exhibits the reflexes typical of a powerless and scared individual. He resorts to obscenities and vulgarity as a means of combating the brutal words being thrown his way and, as expected, it all ends tragically.

    George winds up being accidentally pushed off the boat and drowning in the water. CPR and attempts to get the young kid to breath doesn't help either; George is now dead and the figurative blood is on the hands of the five kids involved. This is where Estes could've copped out and made a film that lead to basic moralizing and cheap, forgettable sentiment.

    Instead, Estes persist through deeply disturbing material and shows just how ugly, senseless, and troubling murder is. He shows the impact it has on these adolescents and how they try and cope with the horrific action they've just committed. It's a tough subject and Estes doesn't sugarcoat it. Just like Larry Clark did with his exceptional film Bully, Estes devotes the last half-hour or so to how the characters deal with their actions, and avoids simplistic moralizing and easy ways out. He brought this material to light and doesn't take it back at all.

    Moreover, the entire cast of young kids are terrific here, with specific highlights being Rory Culkin, who is given the difficult but rewarding role of playing the youngest kid. Culkin's Sam character needs to be aware of his actions but also has to have great difficulty portraying his feelings. His blank, expressionless face often penetrates the psyche of the viewer. The other particularly strong role is that of Josh Peck, who was working on Drake & Josh at this same time. Peck has another challenging role in the regard his action need to be incorrigible but his underlying personality needs to be easy to see and have the ability to second guess the decision to humiliate them. Peck's performance is surprisingly tender, especially during a vulgar key-scene on the boat.

    Through the lens of low-budget filmmaking, Estes makes a completely immersing and exciting picture that works because of its depiction of murder, its meditative atmosphere, its gaggle of great character actors, and its intimate focus on the adolescents involved in this issue (we pleasantly do not have to suffer through scenes with adult characters who "don't understand." Mean Creek is an often terrifying picture but it need be seen by everyone.

    Starring: Rory Culkin, Ryan Kelley, Scott Mechlowicz, Trevor Morgan, Josh Peck, Carly Schroeder. Directed by: Jacob Aaron Estes.
  • =G=11 February 2005
    "Mean Creek" is a film about high school aged kids who conspire to get even with a school bully with a prank which goes seriously wrong. The story is so simple that the end is almost a foregone conclusion reducing it to just so much of the obvious elements required to develop the meager plot and see it through to its conclusion. "Mean Creek" fared well with critics and public alike scoring a marginal two thumbs up and is very well executed considering its one man indieness. However, it lacks the intensity and edge of similar much better films such as "Bully (2001)" and "Elephant (2003)" and spends most of its time just showing kids behaving like kids. This film is just one of a long list of films about teens with nothing very special to offer. (B-)
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Mean Creek is one of several indie films I have seen in the last few weeks and it's one of the better ones that stands out. Mostly it stands out because of it's impressive performances by it's young cast that makes up more than 95% of the film. It's also not an incredibly drawn out film but sticks to the plot and never gets too odd or complicated.

    The film revolves around a typical school yard bully. He's self conscious and makes himself a big man by picking on the smaller kids. One day he puts a beating on young Sam for messing with his video camera. Sam's older brother Rocky, along with his best friend Marty, come up with a prank that hopefully will humiliate Bully George. They convince George that they want him to tag along on a birthday outing for Sam. But they plan on stripping George naked, dunking him in the river, and leaving him to walk home. Sam comes along, and brings his girlfriend Millie as well, although Millie doesn't know of their plans. George, at first, comes across as nicer than they expected and it makes Sam, Millie, and Rocky change their minds about it. Marty doesn't like this idea because he came all the way out here to humiliate this kid. Marty is constantly bullied by his older brother and seems to want to take out his aggressions on this kid. George eventually starts to let his mean streak out and makes Marty furious and George accidentally goes overboard in the boat, hits his head and drowns. Despite their attempts to save him, he dies on the shore. They are all awe struck and Marty being the eldest and more of a leader type insists they bury the body and tell no one. This doesn't sit well with them but they do it, however when they get back to reality, they all have second thoughts.

    The characters in the film are diverse and interesting. We don't get a huge look into their background and yet director and writer Jacob Estes manages to show us each one and a little of their home life and the troubles they have and show us each one's diverse personality. The cast takes this direction and gives us amazing characters and performances. Rory Culkin is very good as the young victim Sam who seems unwillingly pushed into all this. Scott Mechlowicz also stands out as the leader Marty. He's obviously a disturbed young man who is fighting to stay away from bad influences and not fall into a life of crime but ends up there anyways. He so desperately wants friends who love and support him. Josh Peck who plays bully George is exactly as obnoxious and mean as he needs to be. The film to me resembled Stand By Me, the characters all closely intertwined and all of them behaving in an adult fashion without any of the maturity. I am not a HUGE fan of Indie films but as far as they go this is definitely one of the better ones. It's worth checking out to see some great performances by some young actors. Clocking in at less than 1 1/2 hours gives it an edge in my opinion because it's not wordy or preachy or annoyingly long. Its pure simplicity is what it's all about and it works. 7.5/10
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Teen life isn't The OC. There's always something deeper occasionally sinister beneath the surface of seemingly ordinary kids. Some lash out, some keep it in and let it eat them alive. George is a fat kid with learning difficulties who eats alone in the cafeteria and aggressively bullies every other kid around him, especially Sam (Rory Culkin).

    When enough is enough Sam gets help from his older brother's pal to set George up for a prank that will teach him a lesson. They go on a mock birthday boating trip with the intention of humiliating him. Trouble is, when George has people being nice to him he's very, very nice and quiet back to them. He has no clue of what their planning. Sam and his brother want to back down but the leader Marty won't leave it alone.

    George is like the spawn of Satan and the son of God. His unpredictable manner throw the gang into a state of confusion over what to do with him. But he pushes his luck to far and ends up dead. Did he deserve it or not? It's entirely up to you.

    Mean Creek is a sombre morality play that is as gritty and realistic as anything you'll witness in real life. Director Jacob Aaron Estes draws faultless performances out of his young cast, so much so that even when they are not speaking you can read what they are thinking in their eyes. He atmospherically captures the Pacific-Northwest countryside and pulls you into a engaging story without making it seem overbearing.

    It's ironic that a realistic teen movie would be rated R instead of PG-13 but if you're a concerned parent worried whether or not this is suitable for younger kids then I would suggest you give it a shot. There's nothing suggestive about it and it might actually help your kids understand bullies rather than hating them. Either way, this is a great film for anyone who enjoys good acting and an involving story.
  • One of the greatest movies ever made is 'A Place in the Sun'. Based on a true murder case, this story features a protagonist who takes his pregnant ex-girlfriend on a boating trip with the intention of drowning her so he won't have to marry her. At the last moment, he has a pang of conscience (or did he just lose his nerve?) and he confesses his intentions to her ... but then the boat capsizes by accident, and she drowns anyway. The film refuses to let the protagonist off the hook, asserting that -- if he felt relieved by her death -- then he is morally guilty of murdering her.

    SPOILERS COMING. 'Mean Creek' raises similar moral questions, in a plot line that evokes not only 'A Place in the Sun', but also 'River's Edge', 'Stand by Me' and 'Deliverance', the latter film even quoted in the dialogue. Four adolescent boys lure teenage George on a boating trip, intending to play a cruel prank on him. A girl comes along too, unaware of their intentions. When she learns what's planned, she persuades the conspirators to call off their plot. But then tragedy intervenes, and George drowns. How culpable are the boys? They literally dig themselves into a deeper hole by burying George's corpse, hoping to conceal the tragedy.

    'Mean Creek' features some of the most realistic adolescent dialogue I've ever heard. The boys bait each other with insults that are misogynist and homophobic. (One boy, Clyde, has two gay fathers.) Although the dialogue pulls no punches, the camera set-ups pull several. At one point, a boy urinates into the river: we see the stream of urine but the boy is out of frame. The most aggressive of the boys, Marty, makes several boasts about his genital endowment. Eventually, he is goaded into dropping his shorts and showing his stuff: the camera shoots this scene from behind, so we never find out what the fuss is about.

    Director/screenwriter Jacob Aaron Estes shows a great deal of talent, but makes a few strange decisions. At several points, the camera shows us printed words on a sign or a bumper sticker ... but then the camera pulls away, or the object recedes from the camera, before most of the audience can read what's written. The script is nearly as good as the dialogue, with splendid exposition and only a few pacing problems.

    MORE SPOILERS. Very early in the film, we learn that Marty owns a handgun. Chekhov's rules of drama stipulate that if a gun shows up in the story, it must eventually be fired. The payoff for this weapon shows up very late in the film, in an unexpected way (and the gun is never fired). In this case, it would have been better if the gun had never been mentioned nor shown until Marty decided to use it. Throughout this film there is a running directorial conceit, with sequences shown from the P.O.V. of George's video camera, but there turns out to be a valid payoff for this.

    Every performance in this movie is splendid. I was especially impressed with Rory Culkin (Macaulay's more talented brother), Carly Schroeder as the well-intentioned girl, and Josh Peck as fat unpopular George, who clearly wants to be popular yet can't help being unpleasant. I'll rate 'Mean Creek' 9 out of 10, and I look forward to more films from Jacob Aaron Estes.
  • If Stand by Me was the film about the youngsters venturing off into the woods to rather ill-advisedly discover a dead body, American filmmaker Jacob Estes' appealing 2004 drama Mean Creek is the film about a group of youngsters venturing off into the woods and ill-advisedly getting themselves into all sorts of bother creating a dead body. The film is a brooding, broiling and quite wondrous piece about a serviceable plot to do with family ties; revenge and coming of age, but with a distinct undercurrent of masculinity hovering gently underneath proceedings and providing it with that tinge of tragedy. The joy does not lie purely with the getting to the catalyst which will go on to forge these children's lives, although the getting there is some brilliantly constructed realist cinema doing well to elevate it above most other teenage orientated picture or ugly revenge thriller; rather, the director manages to find an indelible balance of hope; reassurance; terror and tragedy, in what is quite a feature debut.

    The film unfolds in a backwater town in the state of Oregon, a state offering a hot; humid; bothering and swamp-like quality which persistently overlies the film. There isn't really much in the way of a lead character to speak of, the bulk of it consisting of young men of the cusp of some sort of adulthood loitering with one another in large clumps; often clad in vests extenuating their muscles, these boys spend most of their days speaking of their manliness and vehemently dismiss topics that might lead onto homosexuality that rear up. Much later on, when everyone is deeper in the mire than anybody would consciously want, one of the young men pleads with another to go away with him; as if they were a partner-of-old the begging party desperately feared loosing. But that particular instance, a crescendo of the homoeroticism rife in the text, is a long way off. When we begin, it is with that of a composition looking directly out at the world through an amateur camcorder perspective, a composition of which captures that of George (Peck) - effectively a child in comparison to certain others within the film, but an overweight individual residing in a local high school who's been kept back in years and, try as he might, misses his basketball shots.

    George might be read into as essentially being Mean Creek's 'villain', but the film handles his presence so delicately, that it does really well to refrain from demonising the fat character as the trouble maker lacking in intelligence and sporting ability. In fact, we sense George himself is a victim of marginalisation within the world that he exists; sporting a tough, if nominally vacant, home life with sleepy looking parents more interested in exercising than enquiring as to where their children are going for the afternoon with a car load of young adults – the film is even suggestive that since he seemingly fails in most of the aforementioned fields of sport and academia, he appears to have this knack or interest in documentary filmmaking: shooting most of his life and pastimes with the camera.

    At that high school, Rory Culkin's Sam tampers with the camera out of interest during that opening shot and receives a harsh beating from the bigger boy; something which close to all but enrages his elder brother Rocky (Morgan) and provokes him into concocting a scheme to get even. The core of the idea needs to involve that of Rocky's friends; two young men about as old as Rocky named Clyde (Kelley) and the more temperamental Marty (Mechlowicz), whom suffered a family bereavement not so long ago. The boys appear to treat the isolated town in which they live as if it were their own; they saunter out of fast food outlets in that cocksure and overly confident manner one might at that age when one is without much care for anything. In ambling down the street in the middle of the road, they get across this perception that they've of the opinion automobiles ought to move for them; their wayward thinking appearing rife in that one of the boys enjoys a smoke and speaks of how, years ago, they were prepared, although daft enough, to position themselves on the actual roof of a house during a game of hide and seek so as to avoid loosing the triviality of the game. An idea rears up in the form of false-birthday party for Sam, for which George is invited; a birthday which will encompasses a trip down a nearby river on one of those ropey looking boats that often screams "trouble", but a trip that'll see George humbled for his assault on Sam through means of eventual humiliation involving the stealing of his clothes.

    Estes captures life in-between these people perfectly; in dealing with a screenplay predominantly featuring those no older than about seventeen but no younger than about twelve, the man has managed to arrest the differing natures and attitudes to life as well as life at that age through some wonderful dialogue. The film additionally displays a remarkable eye for constructing something as routine as a boat trip as this tense, bubbling ride down a road to a proverbial Hell, in which tempers rise and morals fray; the majority of the boat coming to see George as the flawed, victimised human being he is although a labelling they are only going on to regrettably enforce. To go on would be to say too much. The film is rife with an array of performances by people playing characters who are all at once scared; angry and in a state of grieving, each of them as accomplished as the next. Mean Creek is a brooding mess of a situation made worse by egotisms and a lack of communication that begin with the adults therein and ends with the kids once they've passed the line – the likes of which make for good viewing.
  • It is very difficult to write about this oppressive movie without creating spoilers. Turns in the script are important in understanding steps following and knowing the end would probably ruin preceding thrill... Well, the events and different reactions to a certain incident are logical (particularly, when bearing in mind the age of involved persons), but I personally found the composition of boat-trip members a bit odd as youth groups aiming for something "nasty" do not consist of members of so different ages... And one very minor girl among the bunch of sexually capable male teens tripping far? Hmm... Performances by youngsters are, of course, high-level (above all, Rory Culkin and Trevor Morgan), and the one involved in "group-mocking" is no saint himself. The ending is versatile, with loose ends, and viewers can ponder on and over what has really happened and if the consequences did reflect the true nature of events.

    In general, Mean Creek is a decent independent drama, but it is also complex to specify its audience - it is not suitable to most families with children, but adults only may find difficult to dedicate their time for a movie where adult characters and very briefly on screen.
  • "Mean Creek" is a film about a group of youth who want to seek revenge on a pestering bully. My first reaction when I heard the premise of "Mean Creek" was a bit mean spirited. Another movie about "bullying" is just all bull! However, I do commend Director Jacob Aaron Estes for his "Estesic" I mean aesthetic approach to "Mean Creek". Rory Caulkin stars as Sam, the endearing bully victim. Ryan Kelley, Scott Mechlowicz, Trevor Morgan play the bully busters who plan out the vengeful prank to the bully during a creek boating trip. However, things go awry and mortality becomes an unexpected outcome. Sound pretty "creeky", ha? Carly Schroeder plays the innocent girl who wants out of the plan and wants it the "Carlyta's Way" of non-violence. The aforementioned young actors were all phenomenal! Last but not least, Josh Peck plays the bully George. Young Peck's acting work here is bullyful beautiful. It's the best performance of the film. "Mean Creek's" strengths are its superb thematic elements on moral dilemmas, sibling support, and peer relations. I do think every youngster should head "up the creek" and see this "Mean Creek". It's an important educational film for adolescents! **** Good
  • A group of school kids set off on a boat trip planning to teach a bully a lesson he won't forget . . .

    It's a story that could easily be turned into a standard plan-gone-wrong story and deteriorate into a run-of-the-mill teen horror flick. But instead Mean Creek is an understated and surprisingly thought-provoking film that has understandably been notching up a few awards worldwide.

    Sam, a young lad (maybe about 12) gets a serious kicking from a very overweight boy, George, who flies into a rage when Sam goes near his camcorder. It has a visceral feel to it that makes us slow down and question. The opening shot is the view from the camcorder, then switches to a very ordinary 'normal' shot as the beating continues. Through the film, the cameras often change, contrasting stunningly beautiful river shots with very mundane ones or 'camcorder' quality. It's almost as if we're being shown several ways of viewing things - which one is right? Sam's brother organises the group and 'invites' George on the boating trip, with a plan to humiliate him, but Sam invites his 'girlfriend' Millie along without telling her the plan. Difficulties arise when she finds out, and also by now we know that George has learning difficulties and genuinely tries hard to be a nice person, even though he is prey to sudden rages.

    In this scenario of shifting sympathies, the film focuses on the inward, unspoken thoughts of the characters. For instance, we watch as Millie struggles inwardly with the moral dilemmas. There is also the contrast between the loud-mouthed bravado of all the kids and their more thoughtful, intelligent side - one that we so often don't see when viewing children at large.

    Their difficulties in resolving the problem are mirrored by our own - bullying is not a problem adults have been able to 'solve' - in fact violence in schools seems to have escalated in the past decade. Do we try to understand? discipline? exclude? Education has rushed ahead, banning corporal punishment, but the advanced 'people skills' we aspire to have, that can defuse any situation without the threat of more old-fashioned methods of discipline, haven't quite caught up. Order breaks down and the worst instincts may in some cases get free rein.

    There's a moment in the film when we wonder if the children will go down a path that would perhaps save George by putting their new-found compassion for him into practice, but would it work long term? When children leave school for the wider world they enter a system where force is used as a last resort, but even that use of just force has lost some of the respect that it should have to be effective. At one point in the film, where they argue over the best course of action and where prison might be just a faint possibility were the resultant crimes confessed, the dissuading argument by the ringleader is about "going to prison and getting raped every night for the rest of your life" - showing a (perhaps believable) lack of faith in the justice system. America has one of the highest incarceration rates per head of population of any modern country, yet violence continues undiminished. One of the threads of the film suggests that the heavy-handedness of the justice system draws people into criminality because they feel that, having strayed a little, they have no choice but to embrace a life on the wrong side of the law.

    When I was at school (in a time when caning had almost, but not quite, been completely phased out), I had been bullied frequently by one boy (who picked on many kids). We had a liberal gym teacher who accepted my suggestion that I challenge the bully to a fair fight with boxing gloves. It worked - we knocked hell out of each other for a few minutes then laughed about it in the changing rooms - and he didn't bully me or my friends again. We had learnt the idea of 'fair' or 'justified' violence that is very different from emotional, uncontrolled outbursts. Punishment should both be controlled and for the benefit of the recipient, so that the growing mind can learn correct ways. If punishment (or reasoning) is ineffective (as it often is now in our school system) then we are letting down those children who need it. Perhaps liberalism in schools has gone too far.

    Made with considerable self-discipline, Mean Creek (with a budget of just £260,000), proves that American indie cinema is alive and kicking.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The problem I had with Mean Creek is that I never really found its premise to be believable; the fact we're told George is a 'bully' merely because he punched Sam a couple of times in the face. Do the writers even know what a bully is? A bully will usually target someone who's smaller and weaker than them and will usually do this for no other reason than to make themselves feel better about themselves. George warned Sam not to touch his camera and when Sam ignored him, George gave him a good hiding. Whilst I'm not condoning what George did, I hardly think his actions qualify him as a 'bully'.

    After the altercation with Sam, George is then invited on a boat trip with Sam and his friends... Anyone in their right mind would refuse to go anywhere with a group of people who are friends with the person that you've just beaten up. I just found the entire premise ridiculous and unconvincing. I mean you have to ask yourself if it's really believable that a group of friends would go to that much trouble over 'one' altercation... sure you may go to these sort of lengths if George had been bullying Sam for months, but again I struggled to find a lot of this believable.

    We're then treated to a tedious and long game of 'Truth Or Dare' which I felt was clumsily written into the story and just dragged on and on.

    I also found the film to be quite boring as well and this is probably due to a large number of characters being rather shallow and lacking in depth (although Estes does flesh George out quite well). The performances were pretty weak across the board (with the exceptions of Mechlowicz and Peck who both managed to be far better than the material). At times the camera work was also nauseating and gave the film a very amateurish feel to it.

    The final 20-25 minutes consist of the gang moralising over whether they have 'done' the right thing or whether they should 'do' the right thing. Whilst the narrative swings in this direction towards the end it never really offers much commentary and the messy and unresolved ending made me wonder what the point was in building the film up in this manner only to then offer no closure on the matter. George's monologue at the end made very little sense and created a disappointing finale to a disappointing film. It's a shame really as I could see a lot of potential here.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "Mean Creek" is a masterpiece drama from first time director Jacob Aaron Estes, and is one great debut at that. The film revolves around Sam (Rory Culkin), a middle-schooler who is beat up by an overweight bully, George (Josh Peck). His budding girlfriend, Milly (Carly Schroeder) is a quiet, mild-mannered girl who is taking a liking to Sam. After he is beat up one day by George at school, his brother, Rocky (Trevor Morgan) and his two friends, Marty (Scott Mechlowicz) and Clyde (Ryan Kelley) decide to take George out on a boat trip, pretending it's Sam's birthday, and humiliate him in the wilderness. The entire gang is along for the ride, but Milly persuades Sam to call the plan off after realizing George is just a lonely kid who wants friends. But the game has already proceeded, and what happens next is something that none of them will ever forget.

    This film completely blew me away. Everything from the story, the dialog, the scenery, the performances - everything in this film is simply amazing. The plot tends to run along the lines of "Stand By Me", with elements of "Deliverance" too. All in all though, the story is excellent. The performances and dialog are what really soar in this film though. The cast is made up of a group of highly-talented child and adult actors, and they each play their characters perfectly. This film is a perfect opportunity for these actors to shine, and they really do a great job - each of them were very believable, everyday teenagers - they played it very well and were very convincing. I can't say a bad thing about anyone in the movie. Culkin pulls off the lead, and Josh Peck (who is a Nickelodeon veteran) gave a shocking performance - not what I was used to seeing him do on television. Carly Schroeder played her innocent character precisely, evoking a perfect feeling of pathos - she's a quiet, nice kid who's mixed up in something she never wanted to be a part of. I really liked the film's scenery also, I live very close to some areas where it was filmed and I can definitely recognize certain areas and the rivers, which was interesting for me.

    The dialog in this film was amazing, everything flowed perfectly. It felt like I was just listening to (and watching) some regular, everyday teenagers talk to each other, almost to the point where I forgot that I was watching a movie. The characters conversed so naturally, Estes really captured what it's like to be a teenager, especially through the dialog. The film tackles some tough issues that many adolescents suffer, and the main theme of the story is disturbing - the last thirty minutes of the movie are heartbreaking, and the confrontation on the boat that results in the film's main tragedy was disturbing, just because of how simple but shocking it was. I won't give away spoilers that could possibly ruin the movie, but it's quite disturbing solely because of the film's subject matter.

    Overall, "Mean Creek" is a disturbing film that captures adolescence perfectly, but focuses on tragedy and hysteria, and the way that the events that unfold affect the characters. The performances and dialog are so natural that it's almost uncanny, and the film is excellently written. Some may disagree, but I think this film is a masterpiece. 10/10.
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