Flipped (Warner Bros., 2010)

Remember the pre-North era, when Rob Reiner could do no wrong? Those days were long ago. Now, we count ourselves lucky if a Reiner movie is only a little bit maudlin — which is why the largely positive advance buzz for Flipped was so intriguing. The box office never lived up to the early hype (and later reviews weren’t quite as kind), but for anyone who remembers the days when Reiner knew how to find the magic intersection between smart and sentimental, it’s hard to give up hope for a return to form for the Stand by Me director. So…is this it?

Synopsis: When second-graders Bryce and Juli first meet, Juli knows it’s love. Bryce isn’t so sure. Beginning that day, and for the next six years, young Bryce (Callan McAuliffe) does everything he can to keep his outspoken wannabe girlfriend at arm’s length…which isn’t easy since they go to the same school and live across the street from each other.

Smart, dreamy, independent and willing to stand up for what she believes in, Juli (Madeline Carroll) is different from anyone else he knows and, frankly, it’s a little overwhelming. What’s a guy supposed to do when a girl tells him his hair smells like watermelon or wants him to sit in a tree for the spectacular view? There’s just no telling what Juli will do next, and Bryce is one guy who’d rather be safe than sorry.

Though disappointed by Bryce’s unwillingness to see things her way, or even to see the things in life she finds most meaningful, Juli continues to give her potential dreamboat the benefit of the doubt. Until those doubts stack up so high that she finally thinks maybe she was wrong about him. It’s just about the same time Bryce starts to think maybe he was wrong about her, too. But is he too late?

The coming-of-age romantic comedy Flipped, from director Rob Reiner, takes Bryce and Juli from Grade School to junior high, through triumph and disaster, family drama and first love, as they make the discoveries that will define who they are — and who they are to each other.Video: No working director has as much of a ’50s fetish as Reiner, and it shows in Flipped — this is 85 minutes of warm palettes and soft focuses. It’s gimmicky, but it works for the movie, and generally speaking, the disc looks great, especially given its slim $14 million budget (as well as the surprising amount of green screen work revealed in the behind-the-scenes featurettes). It goes without saying that there isn’t a minute of this film that will remind you you’re watching a Blu-ray, but at least it has a look, which is more than you can say for a lot of current films.

Audio: It’s an old-timey, dialogue-heavy movie about childhood romance, with an oldies soundtrack, so you can pretty much just go ahead and shut off the surround sound — but if you insist on taking advantage of Flipped‘s 5.1 DTS-HD audio, you won’t hear anything to complain about. Everything gets plenty of room, from the dialogue to the ambient noise, and the film’s periodic bursts of noise (like the scene when Juli’s uncle has a meltdown) are handled smoothly. You’ll get just as much enjoyment out of listening to it with earbuds, but everything works the way it’s supposed to.

Special Features: Slim. Reiner doesn’t even deign to provide a commentary track. Instead, you get a handful of inessential featurettes, running the gambit from how much fun the stars had (“The Differences Between Boys and Girls,” “Anatomy of a Near-Kiss”) to how to raise chickens (“Embarrassing Egg-Scuses”) and how to make a science fair volcano (“How to Make the Best Volcano”). It’s all pretty perfunctory — you don’t even get a trailer. It’s easy to understand Warners’ reluctance to bother with a lot of bonus content for a movie that didn’t even make $2 million in theaters, but they could have done better than this.

Bottom Line: The box shouts “from the director of The Bucket List,” so you know more or less which Rob Reiner you’re going to get even before the movie starts — Stand by Me, this ain’t. But it is a more honest, affecting film than anything Reiner’s done in awhile, and the narrative’s shifting perspectives add a nice twist — which is why it’s so frustrating that even though he has a solid story to tell (adapted from Wendelin Van Draanen’s book), and a charming, talented cast, Reiner can’t help going overboard with the schmaltz. He doesn’t trust his audience to understand the importance of significant moments, so he beats you over the head with heavy-handed narration and embarrassingly obvious shots. This is probably what we deserve in a world where Wild Hogs and Grown Ups make big bucks at the box office, but it’s impossible not to sigh and roll your eyes anyway. Reiner used to understand how to earn his fuzzy, feelgood moments. What happened?

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Jeff Giles

Jeff Giles is the founder and editor-in-chief of Popdose and Dadnabbit, as well as an entertainment writer whose work can be seen at Rotten Tomatoes and a number of other sites. Hey, why not follow him at Twitter while you're at it?

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