Billy Kent’s latest offering HairBrained, is a take on the college admission coming-of-age tale. It stars Brendan Fraser as self-confessed ‘late bloomer’, Leo Searly and Alex Wolff (from Nickelodeon’s Naked Brothers Band) as child prodigy Eli Pettifog. The title refers to Eli’s extraordinary mass of hair that he claims, “protects his brain.”
It is a quirky film, centred on the friendship between Leo and Eli, contrasting their mid-life and youthful crises. Eli, a fourteen-year-old genius, is heartbroken that he wasn’t admitted to Harvard, instead winding up at Whitman College where he joins their College Mastermind team. It is part of his plan to exact revenge on Harvard for rejecting him. In this plot he is assisted by Leo, an ex-gambler and divorced father who is still trying to grow up.
For a friendship that is supposed to be the heart of the film, it falls flat. There are no real conflicts between the two and the dynamic somehow fails to feel genuine. Their arcs seem to run parallel with each other, instead of each influencing the other.
Fortunately, the interactions between Eli and his peers are a little livelier, though the characters are fairly stereotypical. Eli’s girlfriend, Shauna (Julia Garner) is a sweet take on the ‘manic-pixie-dream’ girl type, played with a youthful innocence by Garner. The Mastermind team mates (played by Greta Lee, Teddy Bergman and Robin de Jesus) are amusingly awkward and offer a few laughs.
The plotline moves along pleasantly enough, even if it is somewhat predictable. The Mastermind team progresses, Eli gains popularity and Leo comes to terms with his past. Events seem to unrealistically fall into place and too few moments feel authentic, while many feel rather forced.
Parker Posey’s brief turn as Eli’s dysfunctional mother illustrates the complexity that could have played throughout the film and it is a pity the actress wasn’t utilised further. As it stands, HairBrained offers quirky and light-hearted fun, but lacks the kind of heart and emotional depth that make films like Juno such a success.
Review Score: TWO AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
HairBrained is released on DVD in Australia on October 22nd through Eagle Entertainment.