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Harold (DVD Review)

17 Aug, 2008 By: David Greenberg

Prebook 8/19/08; Street 9/16/08
City Lights
Box Office $0.01 million
$24.98 DVD
Rated 'PG-13' for crude and sexual content, language and teen drinking.
Stars Spencer Breslin, Cuba Gooding Jr., Ally Sheedy, Nikki Blonsky, Colin Quinn, Rachel Dratch, Fred Willard, Dave Attell, Chris Parnell.

If the premise of Harold — a 13-year-old boy (Breslin) with male pattern baldness and a cantankerous middle-age attitude to match — seems familiar, possibly like a skit on "Saturday Night Live," it could be due to the fact that the film was written and directed by one time "SNL" director T. Sean Shannon.

If the prospect of yet another flimsy skit-length premise expanded to feature length seems familiar, even frightening, an open mind might yield a pleasant surprise. Harold is filled with disarming wit and offbeat charm.

Anyone who has either been a teenager or seen a couple of movies about adolescence knows that being in high school can be a social and emotional minefield in a best-case scenario. For anyone who is anything left of "normal," it can be hell. The film drives this point home repeatedly and explicitly, benefiting from both the presence of Sheedy, the iconic "weird girl" from The Breakfast Club, as Harold's mother, as well as Blonsky, the chubby protagonist from Hairspray, as a sympathetic classmate.

Harold's Ferris Bueller-esque monologues and acerbic narration keep things lively, and the whole film has a distinctly Napoleon Dynamite vibe. Breslin is a delight as the desperately out of touch but totally comfortable in his own skin teenager.

In addition to memorable appearances by some well-known comedians, Gooding Jr., in yet another one of his perplexing career choices, shines as the ever-wise and kindly school janitor.

With most of the laughs coming from toilet humor, it is hard to know exactly who the film will appeal to: the juvenile audience that can relate to it first hand, or the slightly older crowd that relates to the their own painful memories of what it was like to be different.

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