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"THE ADVENTURES OF SEBASTIAN COLE"
(1999) (Adrian Grenier, Clark Gregg) (R)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
Heavy Heavy Extreme Minor Minor
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Heavy None None None Extreme
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
Moderate Heavy Heavy Moderate Moderate


QUICK TAKE:
Drama: A young man tries to find himself through various escapades after his family splinters apart following an unexpected revelation.
PLOT:
Sebastian Cole (ADRIAN GRENIER) is a typical seventeen-year-old growing up in upstate New York during the early 1980s. Smart, but bored with school and leaning toward his rebellious side, Sebastian's family life quickly unravels when his stepfather, Hank (CLARK GREGG) announces that he's planning to become a woman.

As a result, Sebastian's sister, Jessica (MARNI LUSTIG), flees across the country with her lout of a boyfriend, Troy (GABRIEL MACHT), while his British mom, Joan (MARGARET COLIN), takes him and returns to London. It's not long, however, before Sebastian's bored with life on the other side of the pond and returns to the States.

Instead of living with Hartley (JOHN SHEA), his biological and egocentric architect father, Sebastian decides to stay with Hank, who's now in the midst of becoming Henrietta, but is still quite capable of defending himself or Sebastian. With a flock of blond locks, some new stylish threads and a more adventurous demeanor, Sebastian decides to experience life through a series of varied adventures, somewhat along the lines of Ernest Hemingway.

As such, he gets involved with a local girl, Mary (ALEKSA PALLADINO), hangs out with his buddy Wayne (RUSSEL HARPER), and generally gets himself into varying degrees of trouble as he forges his way into young adulthood.

WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
Probably not.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: R
For language and crude sexual references, and for some substance abuse.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
  • ADRIAN GRENIER plays a seventeen-year-old who turns rebellious after his family splinters apart. As such, he drinks to the point of ending up in the hospital, cusses, smokes, ignores a girl with whom he's just had sex and generally adopts an overall defiant attitude.
  • CLARK GREGG plays his stepfather who decides it's time to have a sex change operation and become a woman. Thus, he spends much of the movie dressed as a woman. He also cusses some, but does have Sebastian's best interests at heart.
  • RUSSELL HARPER plays Sebastian's drinking buddy.
  • ALEKSA PALLADINO plays a student who has sex with Sebastian and is later seen fooling around with another student.
  • MARNI LUSTIG plays Sebastian's sister who runs away from home and adopts something of a punk rock look and cusses, while GABRIEL MACHT plays her ex-boyfriend and overall lout.
  • MARGARET COLIN plays Sebastian's mom who becomes an alcoholic after her husband announces that he's going to become a woman.
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
    From a parent's point of view the hardest things in their children's lives are learning to walk, talk or any number of other challenges that initially seem impossible for them to do. For kids, such obstacles aren't a big deal since they don't know any better at the time and aren't worried about how they'll be seen should they not be successful at their latest endeavor.

    In that sense, the hardest time is during adolescence when those kids try to transition from childhood to adulthood and where peer and societal pressure seem to put kids and their parents at extreme opposite ends of any spectrum. It's during this time that kids become rebels, troublemakers or outright delinquents.

    Imagine then, facing all of the standard trials and tribulations of that period in life and then having all of that intensified by a distant and egotistical biological father, a sister who's fled across the country, and an alcoholic mother who's gone the opposite direction across the Atlantic. To top if off, add a stepfather who's just announced that the time is right for him to become a woman.

    While that sounds like an interesting, comedic twist on the old John Hughes teen angst comedies (particularly since this one also takes place in Hughes' old stomping grounds of the '80s), it never really develops to any worthwhile extent in Tod Williams' writing and directorial debut, "The Adventures of Sebastian Cole." About as haphazard and disjointed a movie as I've seen in a long time, the title might as well have been "The Boring and Episodic Occurrences of a Troubled Youth."

    With individual scenes appearing out of nowhere and then disappearing just as fast -- with no apparent connection to any others beyond the basic premise of Sebastian sowing his wild oats -- and being set in the 80s for no good reason other than to give Sebastian a new wave/punk look and to include some vintage soundtrack songs, the film is mildly compelling at first, but then proceeds to become progressively more irritating as the "story" unfolds.

    About the only thing that maintains one's interest in the proceedings is Clark Gregg's portrayal of the title character's stepfather who becomes a transvestite while awaiting a final sex change operation. Clearly reminiscent of John Lithgow and his character, Robert Muldoon in "The World According to Garp" -- since both play such characters more "realistically" and not as flamboyant drag queens -- such material offers the film's only fleeting moments of compelling material or true humor.

    Beyond that, we see Cole hanging out with his buddies or sister's ex-boyfriend, participating in some hanky panky with a local girl, or dealing with various school-related issues. None of the scenes are particularly intriguing -- which isn't helped at all by their episodic nature -- and after a while the viewer is resigned to the fact that nothing's going to come of any of this.

    While the intro and concluding bookend scenes -- where Sebastian gets into a bloody car wreck and is treated by a lovely Latino lass -- are supposed to intrigue us, that worn out "mystery" ploy -- that's supposed to make us wonder what led up to that opening -- falls completely flat here and similarly doesn't amount to anything in the end.

    Even the "shocking" finale comes off as nothing more than a cheap ploy to elicit some sort of emotional response from the audience, but by then the plot's episodic nature and the fact that we don't really care about any of the characters makes the effort a moot point.

    That's despite the fact that some of the performances are actually quite good. As the title character, relative newcomer Adrian Grenier ("Celebrity") delivers a believable and true take on a troubled, but devil-may-care teen. Inhabiting a role that would have gone to the likes of Ralph "The Karate Kid" Macchio had the film been made during its setting, Grenier creates a realistic character, thus enabling the audience to sympathize with his "growing pains."

    Of course, Clark Gregg's gender-bender performance will draw the most attention, particularly since his heavy masculine features mean he's the ugliest woman this side of Milton Berle who similarly donned a dress and pantyhose all those years ago. Instead of playing the character as a flaming drag queen, Gregg (who had bit parts in "The Spanish Prisoner," "The Usual Suspects") has the character's daily life go on as usual. Thus, the contrast between his looks and behavior give the moments with him an amusing feel.

    It's not difficult to realize, however, that the entire transsexual/sex change bit is nothing more than a gimmick and never amounts to much more than a catalyst to jumpstart the overall plot into motion. Beyond those two key characters, the supporting performances are okay, but are only sporadically present and thus don't amount to much.

    Although the film has a few funny or amusing moments -- including a conservative grandfather's reaction to transvestism and Sebastian faking karate skills to pass his P.E. requirements -- its overall episodic nature -- while somewhat true to the randomness of adolescence -- doesn't make for that compelling or interesting of a time at the movies. Thus, we give "The Adventures of Sebastian Cole" just a 3 out of 10.

    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    The following is a brief summary of the content found in this R-rated drama. Profanity is extreme with at least 35 "f" words being used, along with other profanities and phrases. A big part of the film deals with a husband announcing he's going to have a sex change operation to become a woman (a revelation that leads to a family's splintering), and we then see him always dressed in drag and partially acting like a woman. There's also some off-screen sex (not involving him), related dialogue and some on-screen making out.

    The title character drinks enough liquor to end up in the hospital with no recollection of passing out, while in another scene he shows a girl how to get high from inhaling the gaseous propellant from whipped cream cans. We also see that his mother is an alcoholic, and other drinking and smoking also occur.

    Related to that drinking and inhaling of gas, other imitative behavior is present, including but not limited to shooting arrows straight up into the air and then running for cover, lighting tennis balls at the end of arrows on fire and the title character develops a rebellious, delinquent attitude and related behavior.

    Some violence is present, including an off-screen car wreck that leaves a character rather bloody, while some closeups of diseased genitalia are shown in a school VD slide show. Should you still be concerned with the film's content after that brief summary, we suggest that you take a closer look at the listed content for a more detailed explanation of what occurs in the film.


    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • Sebastian's family has wine with dinner.
  • Sebastian asks his dad about his college days when he reportedly took some acid, thought he was a dog and Sebastian's mother then walked him on all fours with a collar.
  • We see Sebastian's mom sitting outside on a chair drinking, with empty bottles around her.
  • Later, we see his mom drinking beer and she appears to be an alcoholic. Moments later, Sebastian drinks some wine.
  • Sebastian orders a beer at a restaurant, but Hank has it instead.
  • Hank asks Sebastian "Do you smoke a lot of pot?" Although the teen says he doesn't, Hank says that if he ever catches him being "high" or using any of it, he'll kick him out.
  • Sebastian and Mary's best friend inhale the gaseous propellant from whipping cream containers in a grocery store to get "high."
  • We see that a stranger has bought Sebastian and his buddy some liquor from a liquor store. They then proceed to drink straight from the bottles and when his buddy can't finish his, Sebastian downs it in several gulps. We then see Sebastian in the hospital from an alcohol overdose.
  • Sebastian's family has wine with dinner with his grandparents.
  • Wayne throws an empty beer can into the woods and then hands a full one to Sebastian.
  • Sebastian has drinks in a bar with his mother who's visiting.
  • BLOOD/GORE
  • After wrecking his car, Sebastian's face, neck and shirt are rather bloody. We then see some blood in a bowl of water and on a towel as a woman tends to his wounds.
  • In a school slide show, we see extreme closeups of diseased human genitalia (from VD and that are pretty gross looking).
  • Sebastian's nose is bloody after a man punches him.
  • We hear a guy belch.
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • Some may see Hank as having both for deciding he's going to become a woman and thus disrupting his family's life.
  • We see that Sebastian has altered his transferred school records from London to make him look smarter and more advanced (as a senior) so that he can get out of school earlier.
  • Sebastian becomes increasingly rebellious as the story progresses.
  • Sebastian's biological father tells him that if he wants to be a serious writer, he has to cut people off and put yourself ahead of them.
  • A local guy makes fun of Hank and Sebastian, and then punches Sebastian after the teen gets mad at the guy calling Hank a "faggot."
  • Troy checks out the school girls with binoculars (while making lots of "Oh, yeah" sounds).
  • We see Mary and Sebastian making out in a church pew (with her on his lap).
  • We hear Sebastian break a window so that he and Mary can get into his old and now empty house. After they presumably have sex, he wants nothing to do with her (and tells her to leave when she says that she loves him), although later he does try making out with her best friend.
  • We see that a stranger has bought Sebastian and his buddy some liquor from a liquor store.
  • Wayne throws an empty beer can into the woods (littering).
  • Wayne and a buddy state that they're going to torch a person's house and we see them light a tennis ball at the end of an arrow that they then fire through the night sky (just practicing). We then hear that they did burn this person's hedge.
  • After riding his motorcycle through a school hallway (and having previously done the same on his bike), Sebastian flees from a cop who chases him down the road.
  • FRIGHTENING SCENES
  • A few scenes, such as Sebastian showing up all bloodied, later encountering a thug in a seedy room and paying him off, and running from an arrow fired straight up into the air may be a bit unsettling or suspenseful to some viewers.
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • Knife: Used by a student to cut into a chair/bean bag during a slide show.
  • Nunchukas (martial arts weapon): Seen being spun around by a thug.
  • Bow & arrow: Used in target practice (and Sebastian fires an arrow straight up into the air) and by Wayne as he demonstrates how he's going to torch someone's house (with a burning tennis ball on the end of an arrow).
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Phrases: "Shut the f*ck up," "F*ck off," "Holy sh*t," "Sh*thole," "Piece of sh*t," "Moron," "Suck up," "Fag," "Dyke," "Pissed," "You bet your ass," "Rump wrangler," "Bad ass," "Screwed up," "Faggot," "Bitch," "Shut up," "Punk," "Horny," "Freak," "Bastard" and "Balls" (testicles) and "No way in hell."
  • Sebastian has some bleached blond locks in his hair.
  • Sebastian and his father have a hot pepper eating contest.
  • For fun and the danger of it all, Sebastian shoots an arrow straight up into the air, causing everyone to run for cover.
  • Mary somewhat sensuously takes a piece of candy from Sebastian's mouth.
  • Wearing a ski mask, Sebastian rides his bike through the school hallways a few times, and then does the same with a motorcycle.
  • We see Sebastian lying on the roof of his old house in the rain and in just his underwear.
  • Sebastian and Mary's best friend inhale the gaseous propellant from whipping cream containers in a grocery store to get "high."
  • We see that a stranger has bought Sebastian and his buddy some liquor from a liquor store and they drink it outside at night next to the store. When his buddy can't finish his, Sebastian downs it in several gulps.
  • We see Jessica after a long absence and she has a punk look going for her with quite heavy and dark eye makeup.
  • Wayne throws an empty beer can into the woods (littering).
  • Wayne and a buddy state that they're going to torch a person's house and we see them light a tennis ball at the end of an arrow that they then fire through the night sky (just practicing). We then hear that they did burn this person's hedge.
  • Wayne gives Sebastian "the finger."
  • After riding his motorcycle through a school hallway, Sebastian flees from a cop who chases him down the road.
  • JUMP SCENES
  • None.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • None.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • None, although some songs played in a concert scene contained lyrics that couldn't be understood.
  • PROFANITY
  • At least 35 "f" words (1 written), 18 "s" words, 3 slang terms for male genitals ("d*ck"), 1 slang term for breasts ("t*ts"), 14 asses (2 used with "hole"), 2 damns, 2 hells, 1 crap and 2 uses of "Oh God" and 1 use each of "G-damn," "God," "Jesus" and "Jesus Christ."
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • Hank announces to everyone that he's going to have a sex change operation, prompting Sebastian to ask, "You're going to have your d*ck cut off?"
  • Sebastian's mom shows a little bit of cleavage.
  • In a school slide show, we see extreme closeups of diseased human genitalia (from VD and that are pretty gross looking).
  • When Sebastian announces he's "beat," his friend asks from what. Sebastian then jokingly replies, "Ask your mother."
  • Mary somewhat sensuously takes a piece of candy from Sebastian's mouth.
  • Realizing that Sebastian is seeing someone, Hank asks if he's using protection and then states that every girl in their town over the age of twelve is on the pill.
  • Troy checks out the school girls with binoculars (while making lots of "Oh, yeah" sounds).
  • We see Mary and Sebastian making out in a church pew (with her on his lap). Later, and in his old and now empty house, they kiss and he grabs her butt. We then see them smoking while lying on the floor, presumably after having sex.
  • We see Sebastian lying on the roof of his old house in the rain and in just his underwear.
  • We see a woman standing in a doorway to a bathroom in her bra and panties (presumably after serving a thug she owes money to). When Sebastian meets this thug, he introduces himself as "Dick...Hurtz."
  • We see Troy making out with Mary on his motorcycle with his hand up the side of her cutoff shorts. Sebastian's friend later says that he's heard that Troy is giving Mary the "hard, high one."
  • Wayne comments at a dance, "No one's going to lose their virginity, because there's no virgins here" (except, he then adds, for their friend).
  • Jessica shows a lot of cleavage.
  • After having Hank's status explained to him, Sebastian's grandfather comments on a guy he knew in college who fooled around with horses and dogs.
  • After Hank turns down an older man's request for a date, Sebastian comments on that old man saying that he sitting there in his truck with "blue balls."
  • SMOKING
  • Sebastian smokes more than ten times, while Wayne smokes a few times, and Mary, Hank, Joan and other miscellaneous character also smoke.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • Sebastian's biological parents are divorced and his mom and stepfather then split up when the latter announces he's going to become a woman. Jessica also splits, leaving the family rather fractured. Later, Sebastian and Hank having a falling out as well.
  • We hear that a family member has died.
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • People who decide to have (or have already had) sex change operations.
  • Sebastian's rebellious behavior, including drinking to the point of passing out and having sex with a girl and then not talking to her, among other things.
  • VIOLENCE
  • We hear what sounds like a car crash and then see Sebastian walking along, covered in blood.
  • Upset at Hank's revelation, Jessica takes a racket of sorts and hits some indoor plants with it.
  • We see someone cutting into a chair/bean bag with a knife during a slide show.
  • For fun and the danger of it all, Sebastian shoots an arrow straight up into the air, causing everyone to run for cover. The arrow then lands between him and Mary.
  • A local man punches Sebastian, causing Hank to come to his rescue. Hank then punches this man several times.
  • We hear Sebastian break a window so that he and Mary can get into his old and now empty house.
  • A thug menacingly tells Sebastian that he'll slice him up and throw him in the closet (this doesn't happen).
  • As Sebastian rides his bike down a school hallway, a man purposefully throws a bucket of water in front of him, causing Sebastian to crash.
  • Wayne and a buddy state that they're going to torch a person's house and we see them light a tennis ball on the end of an arrow that they then fire through the night sky (just practicing). We then hear that they did burn this person's hedge.



  • Reviewed August 10, 1999 / Posted August 20, 1999

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