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Mean Creek This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     In a world where box-office success outweighs artistic integrity, it can seem nearly impossible to find a film with a real message. Who needs another blockbuster riddled with plot holes, veiled by big production value; another romantic comedy without the zest and energy required to engage jaded audiences; another teen comedy that talks down to its audience and fills them with materialistic and nonsensical notions of the world? Instead, here is a movie that touches people and inspires them to change.

The independent 2004 gem “Mean Creek,” written and directed by Jacob Aaron Estes, achieves such goals of truth and originality seamlessly. Featuring a cast of brilliant young actors including Josh Peck of Nickelodeon fame, Rory Culkin, Carly Schroeder from “Lizzie McGuire,” Trevor Morgan, Ryan Kelley, and Scott Mechlowicz from “Eurotrip,” the raw and honest performances of these young actors do Estes’ work justice.

When young Sam Merric (Culkin) is beaten up by the local bully (Peck), his brother (Morgan), along with his friends (Kelley and Mechlowicz) concoct a plan of revenge by luring the bully on a faux birthday fishing trip. Along with Millie (Schroeder), Sam’s best friend, for whom he may have deeper feelings, the gang sets off for the creek. While a clear plan of humiliation exists when they begin the journey, as they get to know the isolated bully, they begin to realize his humanity and have second thoughts.

On the cusp of an emotional breakthrough, a sequence of tragic events change the kids’ lives forever and leave the audience heartbroken. The emotional ride that each viewer experiences is tumultuous and draining, but herein lies Mean Creek’s success. Unlike with most films today, the audience becomes emotionally invested in these characters and hopes they will overcome their initial views of each other. It gives the audience hope in mankind, and that is the most important message.

So many talk shows and news programs tackle the issue of bullying and the divides that lie within the youth of America, but none do it any more realistically and emotionally than Estes’ masterpiece. This is truly one of those films that makes you feel like a better person for watching, and leaves you with the feeling that you can change the world, even if only through one person in your own little corner of it.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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