It’s not just an early onset of male pattern baldness which afflicts eighth grader Harold (Spencer Breslin) during his arduous transfer to a new town and school. He also has bunions, a passion for “Murder She Wrote,” and a challenged fashion sense which makes him walk, act and dress like a particularly unhip 70-year-old.
T. Sean Shannon’s coming-of-age movie Harold—which began as a “Saturday Night Live” skit—has a wan sweetness to it which helps it through its more forced and obvious patches, of which there are many. Shannon is lucky in his casting of the title role, as Breslin gives an appealingly dry performance which circumvents all bathos. (The young actor’s androgynously pretty face bears an uncanny resemblance to the actor Divine, aka Glenn Milstead, when out of drag) Stella Maeve is very good, and funny too, as Harold’s more popular sister Shelly, the very type of stunningly average girl who mysteriously fits perfectly into her new surroundings with dazzling ease, gaining boyfriend and cheerleader status in a trice.
A host of comedians, many refugees from “SNL”, add perky spice to the proceedings: Rachel Dratch as a martinet teacher, Chris Parnell as an even more Nazi-ish gym instructor, Colin Quinn as a topless-bar devotee, Dave Attell as that bar’s bouncer, and Fred Willard as a doctor who tells Harold he has the prostate of a ten-year-old. Nikki Blonsky is a simpatico classmate, obsessed with the go-cart racing which forms an integral, if strangely antediluvian, aspect of the plot. Ally Sheedy, however, is rather wasted as Harold’s particularly clueless mom, who can’t seem to fathom her son’s difficulties. I definitely could have done without Suzanne Shepherd, who plays a desperate old bag of a neighbor who constantly throws herself at Harold, thinking he’s her suitable contemporary. (She unconvincingly winds up with Quinn.) And then there’s Cuba Gooding, Jr., in major servile-yet-affable character mode like an updated Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, as the school janitor who befriends Harold, wearing a horrendous wig which makes one seriously question his aptitude as a credited producer here.