Mean Creek is the usual old story of a bunch of kids who take a prank a little too far and, inevitably, someone gets killed. That someone is George (Josh Peck), an overweight, abusive bully who likes hip-hop and wears white camouflage pants. His character is the show stealer in the film and very early on we realise that he's not all bad, just a bit troubled. After all, he does have an LD - that's a learning disability to you and me.

George's LD causes him to behave in an unfriendly manner to his school colleagues and after giving little Sam (Rory Culkin) another beating for touching his video camera, Sam and older brother Rocky (Trevor Morgan) decide it's time to teach the chubby kid a lesson.

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So they all go on a boat trip down the creek, along with a bunch of Rocky's friends and Sam's love interest (Carly Schroeder). Their plan? To play truth or dare, force George to jump into the river naked and leave him there. Naturally, this poorly conceived prank doesn't go quite as expected and Rocky ends up pushing George over board.

Once George has head butted his video camera - yes, he head butts the camera - and subsequently snuffs it in the creek, the film quickly descends into a big nothing. I'm sure the intention was that when it all goes silent and the others sit by the riverside contemplating the severity of the situation, we are supposed to be moved in some way. All it really did was make me realise I'm actually rather bored with this. I certainly didn't have any concerns about what future these kids had and just prayed that the 86 minutes runtime was a lie and that we could leave them out there.

Mean Creek offers very little in the way of character study. We get a brief history of a few of them, simply to push the drama along, and the only information we glean is about their fathers, either deceased or homosexual - like Clyde (Ryan Kelley), writer/director Jacob Aaron Estes grew up with two gay parents) and the script is rife with homophobic slang, the word "fag" being thrown around quite considerably.

The acting verges on poor in places, but when you consider their age and how terrible children can be at acting, you realise that they don't do too badly. Apart from Kelley, that is, who appears to have decided acting isn't his forte, but he might as well get on with it regardless.

Mean Creek is one of those films that robs you of an hour and twenty minutes of your life, without even making you angry about it. The whole shebang can be boiled down to one word. And that word is "average."

Reviewed on: 02 Oct 2005
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Teenagers plot revenge on a school bully.
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Steve Harwood ***1/2

Director: Jacob Aaron Estes

Writer: Jacob Aaron Estes

Starring: Rory Culkin, Ryan Kelley, Scott Mechlowicz, Trevor Morgan, Josh Peck, Carly Schroeder

Year: 2004

Runtime: 87 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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