Driving Lessons
Even with magic abilities, Ron Weasley keeps his hands at 10 & 2 when driving.

Theatrical Release Date: 09/08/2006 (UK), 10/13/2006 (USA)
Director: Jeremy Brock
Cast: Rupert Grint, Julie Walters

Have you ever been a 17-year-old boy? Did your mom drive you crazy? Did you subconsciously take revenge on her by working for a retired actress and running off to Scotland to have your first sexual experience with a nice girl named Bryony (pronounced “Briney”)?

If you answered yes to the last one, seek therapeutic help and sue the makers of “Driving Lessons” for using your life without permission.

Now, I’m all for feel-good films. They’re a welcome distraction to the weekly work grind and a cinematic landscape littered with heavy dramas this time of year.

However, I prefer when I’m watching a film about a boy becoming a man that the actor be capable of more than two emotions and facial expressions.

Case in point, Rupert Grint. You all know him better as Ron Weasley from the Harry Potter films and I think it’s generally understood that he’s not the male British equivalent of Dakota Fanning.

I knew that going in but I was hoping for more of a spark from him in this role, seeing as he didn’t have to contend with evil wizards in modern day Great Britain. Sadly, all of his “magic” seems reserved for wooing Hermione … not that I blame him.

Still, the other lead in the film is an accomplished actress and does her best to take up the slack. Julie Walters is the lifeblood of “Driving Lessons”. Her eccentricity and energy are unmatched by anyone else in the picture.

An odd side note is that she plays the mother of Ron Weasley in the Harry Potter films, making this non-romantic “Harold and Maude” a bit bizarre. (How bizarre!)

Along for the ride in supporting roles are Michelle Duncan as the Scottish lass who transforms young Mr. Grint into a man, Tamsin Egerton as his original schoolboy crush and Laura Linney as his overbearing mother.

Linney is one of my favorite actresses and she easily pulls off the uptight, emotionally damaged character. She even gets to try on a British accent in the film, which went so-so but I enjoyed the effort nonetheless.

Still, on the whole, I was a little disappointed by “Driving Lessons”. There have been so many other movies to touch upon these types of subjects and odd friendships that did it better.

Much of the story was haphazard and there’s a scene near the end that’s just plain ridiculous and horribly edited. I’ll sum it up like this: the cross-dressing freeloader that Linney’s character takes into their home uses their car to run into her after a school play performance.

Don’t bother too much trying to figure out that scene. I’m not worrying about it and I saw the entire film.

I’m giving “Driving Lessons” a 2 out of 5. There was a good heart underneath it all but a lot of work left to be done to get this film to pass its DMV road course and get into the fast lane of the cinematic highway.

Yes, I realize my metaphors are dumb.