Author: DeLapp, Bill
Date published: January 12, 2011
Flipped. (Warner Bros.; 90 minutes; PG; 90 minutes). If a tree falls in a forest, does anyone hear it? For that matter, if a movie opens with zilch promotion in limited release from its releasing company, does anyone see it? That was the preordained fate for this winsome character study about adolescents in puppy-love mode, as it follows the bumpy relationship between Bryce (Callan McAuliffe) and new-gal-next-door Juli (Madeline Carroll) from second grade to junior high. The gimmick here is that key moments in the friendship are presented from each viewpoint, which occasionally makes the film play like a cross between Rashomon and The Wonder Years.
Despite a pedigree that included noted director Rob Reiner, who worked on this adaptation of the acclaimed 2001 young-adult novel by Wendelin Van Draanen, Warner Bros. got cold feet and scotched the film's planned late-summer release. Big Hollywood studios accustomed to pushing the next mega-movie are no longer capable of handling small, indie-like items like the $14 million-budgeted Flipped, which inevitably flopped at the box office when it could no longer secure playdates. (It was part of an October triple bill at Minetto's Midway Drive-In, the closest that Flipped came to Central New York moviegoers.)
Reiner's resume as a go-to director of mainstream fare had a solid run of about 10 years during the late 1980s and early 1990s, with hits like When Harry Met Sally, A Few Good Men, The American President and Misery. Unfortunately, even his directorial skills couldn't save outright misfires such as North (1994) and generic filler including Alex & Emma and Rumor Has It. Perhaps Reiner viewed Flipped as an attempt to return to his earlier coming-of-age triumph Stand By Me (1986), albeit without the Stephen King tropes. He films this yarn with a hazy early- 1960s backdrop, and the need for nostalgia as a cinematic crutch sometimes gets in the way of the low-key action.
Yet the overall earnestness of Reiner's obvious labor of love always comes through, with quite appealing performances from the young leads and adroit supporting work from John Mahoney (perfect as the grandpa we'd all like to have), Anthony Edwards (surprisingly nasty during a drunken dinner spat) and Aidan Quinn and Penelope Ann Miller as Juli's put-upon parents. Warner Home Video quickly issued Flipped as a DVD (unseen by these peepers), with just a few making-of extras and no commentary track, which is probably just as well considering that Reiner would not have many nice things to say regarding his movie's marketing mistreatment.