Cooties Movie Review
Written by Karin Crighton
Released by SpectreVision
Directed by Jonathan Milott
Written by Leigh Whannell and Ian Brennan
2014, Rated R, 88 minutes
Theatrical and VOD release on September 18th, 2015
Elijah Wood as Clint
Alison Pill as Lucy
Rainn Wilson as Wade
Jack McBrayer as Tracy
Leigh Whannell as Doug
Leigh Whannell aims to give teachers their due in his latest script, Cooties. Clint (Elijah Wood) has returned home from New York having failed his dreams of becoming a successful writer. Back home with Mom in boring old Fort Chicken, he finds work as a substitute teacher in his own elementary school alongside his old childhood crush Lucy (Alison Pill) and her boyfriend Wade (Rainn Wilson). But kids today aren’t like when he attended school...at least he’s pretty sure they didn’t go mad and eat their teachers after eating tainted chicken nuggets.
Cooties has the best intentions; it aims to honor the struggles that teachers face dealing with children and their parents. There are some truly heartbreaking lines from Clint about how he envies children now that many opportunities are far behind him. Wade, playing the typical former jock, espouses how much teaching means to him despite the mockery he gets from peers making his salary ten times over. When Clint struggles with the bullies in his classroom we can finally appreciate how difficult and thankless a job educators perform.
Where Cooties starts (but doesn’t end) to lose traction is with the kids. While the bullies antagonizing sweet Tamra and bookish Calvin is anticipated, there’s no discussion given to the bigger issue of bullying and children’s behavior. It’s such a big deal these days it seems irresponsible to represent today’s violence in a movie without having some small nod to the current social climate that creates bullies. And it’s a little disappointing that Whannell only choose two “good” kids to save. I find it hard to believe that the vast majority of kids today are “bad” kids, and seeing that cynical point of view on screen in a bummer. (Post-script: consulted a teacher about this ratio, apparently it's accurate. Bummer.)
I did appreciate that the love-triangle set up between Clint and Lucy and Wade isn’t as straight forward as a run-of-the-mill comedy. Usually the plucky lead wins the woman (as a consumable prize *eyeroll here*) over from her frumpy boyfriend and they ride off into the sunset together. But Wade isn’t a two-dimensional guy who can be thrown away for Elijah Wood’s baby blues. And Lucy isn’t a two-dimensional woman who would throw away a good relationship despite a moment of fleeting passion facing imminent death at the hands of a ten-year-old. And though he envies children, Clint has the maturity in adulthood to realize he doesn’t necessarily love Lucy, he just misses the clarity and confidence he knew in Fort Chicken and thought he could relive that through her.
Sweet as Cooties can be, it’s just not quite funny enough or deep enough to be effective. There are some very funny moments and lines, but the actors are funnier than this script and they struggle as they are held back.
It’s not the best work and it’s not the worst, so we’ll call it a C plus.