By this point in human history, one might think the well would be dried of fresh ways to retell the classic “teen-coming-of-age” story.
The theme has been tackled so frequently from so many different perspectives that a writer today can’t do much else but alter the smaller details in hopes of providing the viewer with an entertaining, though thoroughly predictable story.
Thumbsucker is such a film. Adopted from the Walter Kim novel, the film tells the story of Justin Cobb (Lou Pucci) an awkward teen with the unusual addiction of, you guessed it, sucking his thumb.
The simple involuntary compulsion proves itself to be a major source of contention in Justin’s life at home, and therefore, in Justin’s life everywhere else as well.
The thumb habit also takes it toll on Justin’s teeth, forcing to him regularly visit his orthodontist Perry Lyman, played to perfection by Keanu Reeves.
Reeves plays up his reputation as babbling mystic throughout the film, channeling what could best be described as Neo with a tiny mirror and a gun that alternates blasts of air and water into your mouth.
It’s through Perry that Justin first finds his much-needed cure for thumbsucking, providing viewers with what may be the first-ever recorded session of hypno-orthodontia.
The promise of “spirit animal” Justin finds with Perry is short-lived though, rendering Justin unable to deal with the loss of his habit and eventually being prescribed to one of many overused Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder drugs available on the market.
In typical fashion, Justin becomes a new man, and begins captaining the debate team he had struggled with prior to being medicated.
Playing much the same sidekick/mentor role Reeves plays in act one, Vince Vaughn comes through with another great performance as debate team adviser Mr. Geary.
He provides a much-needed balance to the more serious subplots of the film, like the shaky marriage of Justin’s parents and Justin’s own struggling relationship with love interest Rebecca, played by the gorgeous Kelli Garner.
In fact, much of Thumbsucker’s ability to stand out amidst a sea of similar films is the engrossing nature of its subplots, which manage to leave you guessing at least some of the time, as opposed to being able to read Justin’s future halfway through the film.
Add to that a good story pace and some genuine laugh-out-loud moments, and you’ll probably find yourself surprised at how much you’re enjoying the taste of Thumb.
Slade Bracey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.