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SCREENED AT THE 2006 SXSW FILM FESTIVAL: Potheads and sexpots. Metaphysics and quantum theory. Hot blondes, lotsa laughs, and some adorably geeky little flourishes. This flick's got a little bit of everything. Finally here's a film that asks the question "What if you discovered the meaning of life ... and a really sexy blonde STOLE IT?"
Bickford Shmeckler is a somewhat odd little genius who lives with a house full of hard-party college boys and spends his days filling up a steel-covered notebook with some of the most astonishing revelations ever put on paper. Whoever reads Bick's notebook has some sort of revelation or re-awakening, which would be really great for the whole world -- provided the book hadn't just been stolen by a weed-hungry mega-hottie from sorority row.
So off goes Bickford (Patrick Fugit) on a quest to recover his beloved notebook, and most of the clues are doled out by a dizzyingly sexy blonde (Olivia Wilde), a homeless schizophrenic (Matthew Lillard), and an enthusiastic D&D geek (John Cho).
One of the most colorful surprises of the 2006 SXSW Film Festival, Bickford Shmeckler's Cool Ideas is a great little mixture of sophomoric college humor, alarming smarts, and memorably cool characters. One minute we're giggling at a well-lensed crotch-kick, and the next we're actually growing to like these colorfully broad, smartly written characters. Science geeks will love what "the book" represents, romance fans will dig the chemistry between the beauty (Wilde) and the geek (Fugit), and those who enjoy bong humor and creative profanity, well, they'll have a good time, too.
First-time writer/director Scott Lew does a top-notch job, collecting an eclectic cast, honing an intriguing concept, and delivering a visual presentation that's clean, fluid, and crisp. The leads, Fugit and Wilde, deliver a pair of excellent performances. This might be the actor's best work since his Almost Famous breakout ... and then there's this Olivia Wilde girl. You heard it here first, folks: This gal's absolutely the "next big thing," whatever that means. Not just breathtakingly beautiful, Wilde brings a warmth and magnetism to every scene she graces. I've seen her pop up in a few festival flicks lately, and Ms. Wilde can steal scenes with just the bat of an eyelash.
Not only does this flick offer solid work from young actors like John Cho, Reid Scott, and Mageina Tovah, but it also places the normally annoying Matthew Lillard in a role where he's not only funny, but actually quite sympathetic. As a longtime observer of the Lillard filmography, I think Scott Lew deserves some real credit for that.
Packing quite a bit of wit, wisdom, craziness, and creativity into its slick-looking and efficient frame, Bickford Shmeckler's Cool Ideas is a bizarrely charming little diversion. It's certainly an offbeat little college-flick concoction, but I'll take an colorful concoction over warmed-up formula any day.