Do you remember when you flipped? The time in your life when you stopped thinking boys had cooties and all you could think about was when that cute boy in your math class would finally make a move and kiss you? Rob Reiner's Flipped takes on the coming-of-age tale of first love, where two middle schoolers learn what it means to be head-over-heels.
Flipped follows tweens Bryce Loski (Callan McAuliffe) and Juli Baker (Madeline Carroll) from elementary school to middle school where they discover who they are and what they mean to each other. Bryce moved in across the street from Juli in the second grade and the day they met she flipped. She tried to help Bryce's family move in some boxes, and accidentally ends up holding hands with Bryce after chasing him through the yard. Needless to say, Bryce is seven at the time and has no interest in Juli whatsoever, and hides behind his mom.
Based on the novel by Wendelin Van Draanen, the story is told from the perspective of both Bryce and Juli. The film uses their dual-narration to give both sides of the same stories. The formula has the story alternating between the two narrators, repeating scenes from both Bryce and Juli's point-of-view. It's not often we get to experience a story in this sort of style. The idea is interesting because we get to see exactly what both characters are thinking. In this case, however, the dual narration felt forced, and the transitions were poor. A fade to black here, a literal flip of the frame there (in case you forget, the name of the movie is Flipped), moving from Bryce's story to Juli's could have been done better. It would have been more interesting to hear their perspectives on the same scene as it unfolded, rather than having to wait until the retelling from the other's perspective.
While the novel is set in the present, the film version takes place in the 1960s. Aside from the soundtrack of classic oldies, there isn't anything solidly tying Flipped to the '60s. The film would have benefited from a contemporary setting as originally written. Children in the '60s has been done: Stand By Me, and Now & Then, to name a couple. Instead of the agreeable and familiar mask of the 1960s, I would much rather see a coming-of-age tale of first love that takes place now. Such a film could have explored the innocence of youth before the evil of texting and social media soak in.
Coming from director Rob Reiner, I expected a mix between his classic films - the insight into youth from Stand By Me and the twists of the male-female relationship of When Harry Met Sally, but he directed toward the pre-teen set. The audience gets a glimmer of youthful insight when Bryce's buddy Garrett makes fun of Juli, and he gets mad, but laughs it off to save face, which is probably the most realistic the film gets. Flipped doesn't come close to the strengths of either classic film, but with both of those films in your filmography it's hard for any future work to compare.
Though Flipped is most definitely aimed toward the under-13 crowd, every one else can appreciate the nostalgia of puppy love and also recognize the similarities through their dating lives. Juli adores Bryce's magnetic eyes and cute smile, but realizes she's never really had an actual conversation with him and that he might not be everything she's made him out to be.
Flipped succeeds in capturing the realism of youthful motivations, but doesn't reach its full potential. The film takes on too much with its dual narrators, the soundtrack that oozes oldies sentimentality, a grandfather who speaks in life lessons, and an unnecessary setting in the '60s. Throughout the plot, Juli considers whether people in her life are as good as the sum of their parts or if they are good on the whole. Flipped has elements that sparkle with coming-of-age goodness, but overall the parts just don't add up.
Starring Callan McAuliffe, Madeline Carroll, and John Mahoney. Directed by Rob Reiner.