A treacly tweener saga of first love that drowns in nostalgia, Flipped furthers Rob Reiner’s slide into irrelevance. Based on Wendelin Van Draanen’s book, Reiner’s film concerns the relationship of two eighth graders in the 1960s, across-the-street neighbors Bryce (Callan McAuliffe) and Juli (Madeline Carroll), whose feelings for each other seesaw between infatuation and disinterest, admiration and disappointment. The twist is that the story is told from both Bryce and Juli’s perspective, meaning the narrative is constantly doubling back to provide an opposing POV on events. In other words, it’s He Said, She Said for middle schoolers who dig stagnant period pieces, with its central structural gimmick made more frustrating still by tone-deaf narration from its two protagonists.
Reiner and co-writer Andrew Scheinman haven’t so much adapted their source material as merely transposed it, and their script’s incessant, monotonous voiceover immediately grinds the proceedings to a halt. Not helping matters is the torpid Leave It to Beaver-style humor and plotting, which involves one contrived scene after another, including Juli trying to save a giant Sycamore tree from being chopped down, Bryce’s wise gramps (John Mahoney) befriending Juli and helping her landscape her front lawn, and a dinner party between the kids’ economically disparate families that affords insight into the suppressed misery of Bryce’s intolerant dad (a hammy Anthony Edwards).
Spunky Juli’s discussion of “perpetual motion” speaks to the film’s larger concern with the way adolescence entails constant reassessments of the world, adults, others, and one’s self. Yet despite its earnestness and gender-equality interest in both the male and female maturation process, the film’s stolidity is its death knell. Slow as molasses and just as gooey, the proceedings—including Juli’s visit with her “retarded” uncle, which embarrassingly reconfirms the imprudence of having actors mimic handicapped mannerisms—indulge in such innocuous corniness that not a single genuine emotion materializes. Instead, it’s all just softly lit sitcom moralizing about serious issues, with the film’s desire to thoughtfully consider the tumultuous process of growing up almost as admirable as its execution is soporific.