Ben Kingsley is stunningly funny/sad as the ageing pill-popping shrink who strikes up a friendship with the boy who pays for his sessions in weed. Josh Peck is marvellous as said boy, Luke Shapiro. It's an achingly young character (principled, streetsmart, sexually and emotionally vulnerable) and he does it beautifully, carrying the bulk of the film without apparent effort. His husky delivery and solitary well-meaningness makes him strangely reminiscent of James Stewart in one of his good-guy-in-bad-place scenarios.
The hip-hop soundtrack's great, really well-chosen, and while the situations and relationships are often sad, the script is hilarious. Everything's directed (by John Levine, who also wrote it) with a very light and gentle touch, which, while limiting the emotional involvement with some characters, protects certain moments of the simple story from dissolving into cliché.
It's the acting that really makes it. Ben Kingsley in particular is completely convincing - as an American, what's more. His character would be rather awful in real life, and he manages, with his inimitable facial and vocal dexerity, to make him heart-breaking and sympathetic, as well as laugh-out-loud funny. Olivia Thirlby, as his step-daughter and Josh Peck's unattainable beloved, creates something perfect out of a rather flat role (curiously, while the women in the film have all the power, their characters remain relatively one-sided). And Mary-Kate Olsen has a great cameo as a flowerchild, and Jane Adams another as one of Luke's clients. It's one of those terrifying films where you keep spotting people you know.
My one reservation is the 15 certificate. It's not so much the quantities of drugs, though there's rather a lot of hard and soft about, it's the way that they're completely naturalised. Watching something like Fear and Loathing or Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels - which, by the way, a 15 year old wouldn't be able to do in the UK - you get a sense that drugs are something to be approached, if at all, with caution. In Wackness, they're totally integrated: everyone at all levels of society is on something, all the time, with - and this is crucial - no apparent effects on their behaviour or well-being. Which lets you get on with the comedy without hitting you with a sanctimonious message: great. But I wouldn't have been able to evaluate it for myself at 15. If the former two films need an 18 certificate, this one definitely does.
That aside, I loved this film. Absolutely adored it. I intend to go and see it again next week, before the run finishes.