Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Harold (Spencer Breslin) has some issues. At the tender age of 13 Harold has male pattern baldness and looks like a younger, whiter version of Sherman Hemsley. This is not as uncommon as one would think as I went to high school with this dude Dave Davies – not the lead singer of The Kinks – who had a complete drop-top going on at the age of 16. The drop-top, which is when one is bald up front with plenty of hair on the sides shouldn’t be confused with the sun-roof, which is when you have that open hole of baldness at point of your dome surrounded by quickly disappearing hair. Similar to Harold, Davies looked like he was around 48 years old and also tried to wear a cap everywhere he went to hide his baldness, plus he was also super weird. Unlike Harold however Dave Davies didn’t have a standby, wise, funny, all knowing and very helpful Negro character in Croner (Cuba Gooding Jr.) close by to help him get through those troubled times that were going on in his life. Yes, I am Black, but I could not be that person for Mr. Davies as I was too busy running my fingers through my own full head of hair, which I still have to this day, and joining my other classmates with hair in abusing the Speed Stick resistant Dave Davies. This I am not proud of, but I have made it a point in my life to be extra kind to bald smelly people the world over. And I’m sure Davies has turned his weirdness into millions by now anyway.

But on to director T. Sean Shannon’s movie ‘Harold’. So not only is Harold bald at thirteen and looks like a forty five year old dude, he also acts like a sixty five year old dude in the way he walks, the fact this favorite shows are ‘Matlock’ and ‘Murder She Wrote’ and in his odd way of communicating which sounds a lot like a bad fifties B-movie.. Nonetheless Harold’s life isn’t so bad since he is known and accepted in his little town, warts and all.

This all changes when Harold’s mom Maureen (Ally Sheedy) gets a better job in another town. Though this pleases Harold’s older, shallow, mall addicted sister Shelly

(Stella Maeve), Harold knows there’s trouble over yonder.  Sure enough, the minute Harold gets into his new school he is mercilessly picked on by the school bully, automatically becomes aligned with the school nerd crew, has become the personal whipping boy to his school’s gym coach and has made the unwise decision to pursue the prettiest girl in the 8th grade.

Fortunately for Harold the aforementioned Cromer takes him under his wing and looks out for the boy, showing him how to deal with the hand he was dealt, and teaching him the ways of the world with his unique life philosophy.  There’s some other stuff that’s going on like a big go-cart race, his older sister being pressured into sex by some high school boy, some shame, some confusion but ultimately… triumph.  The question is will you even give a damn? 

Unfortunately for this movie ‘Harold’ I didn’t give much of a damn.  The idea is a sound one, probably because it’s been done so many times, this being the story of the goofy, nerdy outcast boy trying to fit in, but ‘Harold’ ain’t ‘Lucas’ and young Spencer Breslin isn’t quite Corey Haim.  Since a movie like this rotates on the axis of rooting for the ‘underdog’, that basic tenement is undone almost from the start because almost everybody in the movie is so mean spirited, including Harold, which makes it kind of difficult to get behind the kid and root for him.  Admittedly Harold is less of an ass than most of the characters, but damn, his sisters a jerk, her boyfriend is a jerk, Harold’s mom is a bit of a jerk, the Gym coach is a super jerk, obviously all of Harold’s asshole classmates are jerks, and even the kindly all-knowing Negro isn’t all that endearing.  Imagine watching ‘The Legend of Bagger Vance’, ‘Clara’s Heart’ or ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ and not being completely enchanted by those all knowing mystical magical Negroes.  Those movies wouldn’t have worked too well now would they?  The only character who was sympathetic in this thing was Nikki Blonsky’s character of Rhonda, who for reasons we have yet been able to ascertain has a crush on Harold.  Especially considering that she seems a little too old to be in the 8th grade.

I suppose a lot of the blame for the failings of this flick has to be laid at the feet of longtime SNL writer T. Sean Shannon, who might be a player that’s not quit ready for primetime.  A lame statement, but we’re leaving it in anyway.  Shannon’s co-written script is filled with a lot of jokes that don’t work all that well, the timing of most of the gags felt way off, the film was filled with lulls of dead space begging to filled with something, though I don’t know what that something could be.  Laughter maybe?  And on top of that, since this story gets done like 8 times a year in different variations, it was woefully predictable.

Not to be too hard on ‘Harold’ as it did have some large laughs that hit their mark on occasion, it’s always good to see Ally Sheedy still doing the damn thing, and we here at the FCU have recently crowned Cuba Gooding Jr. the new king of Direct to DVD movies (which this isn’t, though it probably should’ve been) so we can’t very well attack our new King can we?  Nonetheless, ‘Harold’ was lacking in almost every conceivable category, but it was also pretty harmless – unless you’re allergic to bad comedies.

Real Time Web