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Voice Overkill

Appealing coming-of-age story is hindered by heavy-handed technique in "Flipped".



Voice-over has been spreading through the movies like a rash, and it can be just as irritating. It's the element that dominates and finally ruins “Flipped,” an otherwise promising coming-of-age story about a boy and girl who carry on a one-sided romance in the 1950s suburbs.

The story alternates between two teens: Bryce Loski (Callan McAuliffe), an indifferent boy, and Juli Baker (Madeline Carroll), the girl across the street who adores him. Part of the meaning in the title, “Flipped,” is that Bryce and Juli each get their say, during every episode of their romantic tug-of-war. After we get Bryce's point of view, the movie flips over to Juli's to hear her take on the same events, the two characters narrating their own versions. As a result almost no scene in “Flipped” goes by without Bryce or Juli giving a play-by-play.

What's intended as an unusual and entertaining structural device begins to grate on the nerves almost immediately. It feels like we're being read to, and it's no fun to have to sit through the same scenes twice, a decision compounded by the light subject matter at hand. This isn't “Rashomon,” it's two teens coping with their warring hormones and maturity issues under digitally enhanced sunsets.

“Flipped” was co-written and directed by Rob Reiner (from a novel by Wendelin Van Draanen), who calls it a companion film to his 1986 hit, “Stand by Me.” Reiner has had a difficult time recently recapturing the emotional resonance of his earlier work. “Flipped” seems to come from a more honest place than efforts such as “The Bucket List,” but still manages to succumb to its creator's worst impulses.

It said a lot about the state of the movie industry when the gregarious director had to put hat in hand to the audience recently at a screening of “Stand by Me” in Los Angeles to ask people to go see “Flipped,” because it's not an action movie or a franchise film and the studios were waiting to see how it did locally. The situation just makes the movie more disappointing. You want it to succeed because it's a personal film from a big director, a rare thing these days. But unfortunately it just doesn't. (PG) 90 min.


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