Mean Creek

September 29th, 2004


Mean Creek

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Still of Rory Culkin, Ryan Kelley, Trevor Morgan, Josh Peck, Carly Schroeder and Scott Mechlowicz in Mean CreekStill of Trevor Morgan in Mean CreekJacob Aaron Estes at event of Mean CreekStill of Ryan Kelley in Mean CreekStill of Rory Culkin and Carly Schroeder in Mean CreekStill of Carly Schroeder and Scott Mechlowicz in Mean Creek

When a teen is bullied, his brother and friends lure the bully into the woods to seek vengeance.

Release Year: 2004

Rating: 7.3/10 (16,903 voted)

Critic's Score: 74/100

Director: Jacob Aaron Estes

Stars: Rory Culkin, Ryan Kelley, Scott Mechlowicz

When Sam Merrick is beaten up by local bully George Tooney, Sam's older brother Rocky and his friends Clyde and Marty plan to pretend it's Sam's birthday to "invite" George on a boat trip in which they would dare him to strip naked, jump in the lake, and run home naked. But when Sam, his girlfriend Millie, Rocky, and Clyde see George as not much of a bad guy, they want to call off the plan, but Marty refuses. Will the plan go ahead as planned?

Rory Culkin - Sam Merrick
Ryan Kelley - Clyde
Scott Mechlowicz - Marty Blank
Trevor Morgan - Rocky Merrick
Josh Peck - George Tooney
Carly Schroeder - Millie
Branden Williams - Kile
Raissa Fleming - Maggie Tooney
Heath Lourwood - Jasper
Ryan Peterson - Cashier
Michael Fisher-Welsh - Mr. Levinworth
J.W. Crawford - Tom (as James W. Crawford)
Shelly Lipkin - Mr. Merrick
Kaz Garas - Detective Wright
Hagai Shaham - Handsome Police Officer

Taglines: Beneath the surface, everyone has a secret.


Official Website: Whitewater Films |

Release Date: 29 September 2004

Filming Locations: Clackamas River, Clackamas, Oregon, USA

Box Office Details

Budget: $500,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend: $29,170 (USA) (22 August 2004) (4 Screens)

Gross: $603,951 (USA)

Technical Specs


Did You Know?

The names that Martini (Marty) says during shooting practice are all names of various cast and crew members: Mr. (Hagai) Shaham (producer, actor - Handsome Police Officer); Mr. (Jacob Aaron) Estes (director, screenwriter); Ms (Susan and Joan) Johnson (producer and production coordinator); Mr. (Rick) Rosenthal (producer).

Continuity: When Marty pushes Sam and Millie's heads together. His cigarette is in his hand (at 42:16), then in his mouth (at 42:29) and finally back in the hand (at 42:34).

[first lines]
George: Hey! What do you think you're doing? You're a punk, Sam!

User Review

Intelligent, superbly acted and thoroughly absorbing

Rating: 8/10

I knew next to nothing about this film when I went to see it. I knew it starred Rory Culkin, who was so good in 2000's best film, "You Can Count on Me," and received some critical acclaim. But I knew nothing about the story and what a wonderful surprise "Mean Creek" proved to be.

This is an intelligent, engaging movie buoyed by some of the best acting by young actors this year. Writer-director Jacob Aaron Estes, who won a 1998 Nicholl Fellowship in Screen writing for his script, takes the basic premise of revenge against a school bully and turns it into a moving and gripping film. Incidentally, this is the second terrific movie to come out of that Nicholl class - the other was Karen Moncrieff's "Blue Car," one of last year's best films.

Given the subject matter, "Mean Creek" could easily have been another after-school special masquerading as an indie feature. But Estes eschews the conventions of the genre to give his characters unexpected depth and create an engrossing morality play. None of his characters is a caricature; they're all flawed and unmistakably human. The moral issues they face are real and complex; the crises they create are dealt with expertly.

What's special about "Mean Creek" are its fine young actors. Culkin again is convincing as a skittish young boy being picked on by the school bully, but the two startlingly brilliant performances are by Josh Peck as the bully George, and Carly Schroeder as Millie, the young girl unexpectedly dragged into the plot.

Peck makes George captivating when he could just as easily made him a typical, one-note bully. Peck gives George substance and turns on the charm so well that we understand the others' reluctance to go through with exacting his comeuppance. George becomes likable, someone who seems to resort to bullying to hide inadequacies of his own. Peck draws us into his character; we feel sympathy for someone who is supposed to be unsympathetic.

The flaw in Estes' writing is that after making George someone who elicits compassion, Estes unwisely opts for an easy way out by forcing George to turn to his uglier side. Had George suddenly not turned mean, the moment would have been far more potent than it already is.

Young Schroeder is downright extraordinary. Her Millie is mature way beyond her years. She serves as the group's moral core and Schroeder's scenes in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy are so astonishingly raw, you're likely to forget she's a young teen actress. Hers is one of the best supporting performances the year.

"Mean Creek" is one of the best coming-of-age films. All teenagers and their parents should see this, despite its R rating. It's unfortunate the MPAA gave "Mean Creek" an R rating because despite the use of the F-word, "Mean Creek" is far less offensive than much of the PG-13-rated garbage - the more recent "Charlie's Angels" movies, for instance - and provides more enjoyment and insight into human behavior in five minutes than almost any mainstream movie playing right now.


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