All his life Eli, a 14-year old genius, has wanted to go to only one school. Harvard. But when the school rejects his application, he finds himself enrolled at Ivy League wannabe, Whittman College.
When the Mastermind team from Harvard visits Whittman for a round of the competition, Eli has a rough run-in with the Harvard team afterwards. Eli finds some purpose and meaning when he makes himself the captain of Whittman College's Mastermind team. They go on to rout other colleges and Eli finds himself on a collision course with Harvard at the competition finale.
Hairbrained rests on the lock-ladened shoulders of young Alex Wolff. He demonstrates a balance of fragility and cockiness in Eli as he finds his place in the school's Mastermind team and has to deal with life hurdles, like the school jock Laird, and young love. Wolff does an excellent job portraying this young boy in a young man's world. He is reluctantly pulled into a friendship with 'Later Bloomer' student Leo. He falls in love with townie girl, Shauna. The school's resident jock, Laird, is immediately on his case vowing to make his life a living hell.
Julia Garner (We Are What We Are) plays Eli's girlfriend, Shauna, with a pixie-like delicateness. Brendan Fraser exhibits his signature goofball charm as Leo, the 41-year-old divorcee/freshman looking for a fresh start, or some kind of escape from his previous life. Leo becomes a kind of surrogate father to Eli as he takes him under his wing.
Parker Posey makes very brief appearances as Eli's mother at the beginning and end of the film. I wish she was around more in the story but I suppose that makes a point, Eli has no one to fall back on, as his mother is completely unreliable and even forgets his birthday. He only has his intellect, and when these people around him begin to show an interest in him, he must quickly develop his social skills.
Hairbrained is a sweet-natured and comedic coming of age film. I was reminded of Rushmore, but without the quirk. Not all of the humor hit its mark, though. And there are some odd choices, such as a musical interlude and a moment of toilet humor I did not need to see. To be honest, a lot of the jokes did not win me over but I acknowledge the effort. Mileage will vary. For the most part, it is a pleasant film to watch and is charming in its own right.
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