Dave's Rating:

4.5

It's got the energy …

Who's in It: Shia LaBeouf, Robert Downey Jr., Rosario Dawson, Chazz Palminteri, Dianne Wiest, Channing Tatum, Eric Roberts

The Basics: LeBeouf (the kid from Holes) plays Dito, a kid growing up in Queens in the 1980s. Apparently, it was a tough enough environment to inspire Dito Montiel, the writer and director, to write a memoir/novel about the experience. Now you don't have to read it.

What's the Deal?: I hate indie coming-of-age movies. They're all exactly the same and, to paraphrase Christina Ricci in The Opposite of Sex, always end with someone saying something like, "I was never the same again after that summer." But this one's not like that. It's got the energy and attitude that so many others lack. It's like when a surprisingly good new song on the radio comes along and reminds you that not every song on the radio sucks.

What's Good About It: All the actors, especially young LaBeouf as Dito and — here's where I eat my words — Channing Tatum, the star of Step Up. That one was one of the worst movies of the year so far, and I mocked the man for his zombie-like performance in it. So I'll shut up now. He can act.

What's Not: It goes to the wistful, adult place too much. It stops shy of overkill, and Robert Downey Jr., as adult Dito, keeps his tendency to go mental in check. But I've seen too many of these movies to tolerate even a little of that "Oh, my past …" sort of self-indulgence. That's what seeing movies for a living does to you.

One More Minor Gripe: Too many emotional cues tied to '80s pop songs. It feels like the movie relies on them more than it should. But yeah, minor complaint.

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