OVERLY HONEST MOVIE REVIEWS: A Vivid, Heartfelt Story of Youthful Ingenuity
February 5, 2024
RAVING REVIEW: At its heart, POPULAR THEORY is a heartwarming and intellectually stimulating film where high school drama and scientific discovery collide in a refreshingly imaginative narrative. This film offers an insightful look into the life of Erwin (Sophia Reid-Gantzert,) a 12-year-old genius whose journey through the complexities of adolescence is anything but ordinary. With a blend of humor, heart, and a touch of scientific magic, POPULAR THEORY invites viewers on a unique, entertaining, and thought-provoking adventure.
The movie isn’t some deep, coming-of-age story that will revitalize the film community, but that’s not what it was meant to be. I think that’s when a production team shines its brightest when it knows what it's making and leans into it. Erwin is at the forefront of this adventure, portrayed with heartfelt sensitivity by Reid-Gantzert. Erwin is not your average high schooler; she's a solitaire figure in a busy school, fitting some of the more cliched “nerd” stereotypes, her only confidante being a poster of a famous physicist. The dynamic of her life and the film changes with Winston's entry, a role filled with more nerd tropes by Lincoln Lambert. Together, they form an alliance set to turn the high school social hierarchy on its head. Do I wish these two performances were a little more nuanced? Sure, I do, but it makes the payoff much more enjoyable when you learn their capabilities.
Under Ali Scher's direction, POPULAR THEORY shines with its compelling storytelling and the movie's “feel” throughout. The film’s imaginative use of a unique addition to a piece of gum is a pivotal plot device. It offers audiences a novel perspective on the role of innovation in shaping interpersonal connections.
The essence of the film lies in its exploration of genuine connections, tracing Erwin’s evolution from an isolated prodigy to a self-aware individual. It's a narrative rich in themes of self-acceptance, the value of friendship beyond societal standards, and the transformative power of empathy and intellect.
Supporting performances by Cheryl Hines, Marc Evan Jackson, Chloe East, Kat Conner Sterling, and Varak Baronian lend the film a multifaceted view on themes of popularity, belonging, and the impact of external validation. Their collective contributions deepen the film's narrative, blending light-hearted moments with profound insights into human relationships. However, it’s East, playing Erwin’s sister Ari, who shines the brightest in the ensemble cast. She offers genuine “big sister” energy yet can also put the character in her place when needed.
POPULAR THEORY goes beyond the conventional pre-teen flick formula, delving into the pressures faced by modern youth and their capacity for innovation and change. Scher’s vision of a world where integrity and merit outweigh superficial judgment resonates throughout the film, advocating for a more nuanced portrayal of female characters in media, emphasizing intelligence and moral strength. Ultimately, while this is a family movie, there are lessons to be learned by all in its narrative.
POPULAR THEORY is a vibrant and enriching story that celebrates the resilience of youth, the quest for identity, and the wonders of scientific exploration as pathways to forging deep, meaningful connections. It's a film that reminds us of the enduring value of friendship, supported by respect and understanding, and the unyielding drive of young individuals to redefine the boundaries of their world. Through a blend of comedy, heartfelt storytelling, and inventive science, POPULAR THEORY stands as a testament to the power of friendship and the relentless pursuit of greatness by the spirited youth.