Twelve and Holding

Film
YOUTH BRIGADE Two kids enjoy some downtime.
YOUTH BRIGADE Two kids enjoy some downtime.

Time Out says

Kids...they do the darnedest things! Take Jacob (Donovan), a tween with a birthmark on his face and a fixation with murdering the adolescents who accidentally killed his twin brother. Or Malee (Weizenbaum), a lonely girl intent on seducing a traumatized construction worker 20 years her senior. And then there’s Leonard (Camacho), an obese pubescent obsessed with losing weight, even if that means locking his mom in the basement for some reverse tough love.

Fans of Michael Cuesta’s first film, L.I.E. (2001), know that he thrives on putting underage protagonists in rather precarious situations. But that movie’s waltz through melodramatic minefields was offset by an amazing performance from Brian Cox. Cuesta’s sophomore effort, however, has no such saving grace, and considering that Twelve and Holding is little more than a mash-up of Afterschool Specials filtered through an Indiewood template darkly, the absence of a solid stabilizing force is sorely missed.

Even the film’s roundabout structure would be acceptable if it weren’t for a gaggle of other offenses, such as reducing every character who’s already sprouted pubic hair to a gross caricature (Leonard’s cartoonishly corpulent relatives may as well be called the Fattys) and forcing actors like Jeremy Renner and Annabella Sciorra to speak embarrassing monologues. The younger performers, especially Weizenbaum, bring some depth to their misfit roles, but they’re not immune to a plot in which even the handful of genuinely creepy, left-of-center moments are telegraphed long before their diminished payoffs. (Opens Fri; click here for venues.)—David Fear

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