Mean Creek ★★★ 2004 (R)
The feature debut of Estes goes beyond teen coming-of-age cliches to tell a hard tale of moral choices. Shy, slight 13-year-old Sam (Culkin) is the favorite target of school bully George (Peck). Tough older bro Rocky (Morgan) decides to get even by inviting George on a boat trip and then humiliating and stranding him. Along for the ride are Rocky's friends, Marty (Mechlowicz) and Clyde (Kelley), and Sam's potential girlfriend Millie (Schroeder). Of course, the plan goes awry as the characters prove to be multi-dimensional: the bully is lonely and vulnerable; the macho kid hides deep insecurities. Unexpected consequences reveal that the taste of revenge isn't sweet at all. The rating is primarily for language but isn't likely to shock the film's peer group. 89m/C DVD . US Rory Culkin, Ryan Kelley, Scott Mechlowicz, Trevor Morgan, Josh Peck, Carly Schroeder; D: Jacob Aaron Estes; W: Jacob Aaron Estes; C: Sharon Meir; M: Tomandandy.