The one lesson learned from watching this film is that Canadians can make movies just as badly as anyone else. Set in snowy Nova Scotia, “Whole New Thing” centers on the 13-year-old Emerson (newecomer Aaron Webber), who has been home schooled by his hippie-dippie parents in an eco-friendly rural home. Emerson has a lopsided precocity: he’s brilliant in English and knows how to massage pretty older women at parties, but his math skills are elementary. Worried that he won’t be able to attend a worthwhile university with his wobbly two-plus-two knowledge, his parents enroll him at a local middle school.
At his new school, Emerson connects with his English teacher Don (Daniel MacIvor, who co-wrote the screenplay). Don is a sad soul: his senile mother no longer recognizes him (and insults him without realizing who he is) and he gets his sexual kicks through anonymous encounters at a local public lavatory. Emerson also has interesting connections with the student body: the local bullies initially greet him with a punch in the face, but they are later in awe of his ability to woo the class girls (not to mention his aptitude for completing homework assignments correctly).
The main problem with “Whole New Thing” is its utter lack of sincerity. The film is too fey and contrived to ever gain any degree of believability, let alone cultivate an emotional bond with the audience. The dialogue has a sour, sitcom ring that grows tiresome and irritating before the second reel. This is particularly the case with Emerson, who comes across as a jaded middle-aged man’s notion of a teen rather than the genuine youthful article.
There is also a major “ick” factor in placing too much attention on the sexual concerns of a 13-year-old, especially when he is confronting his wet dreams and interacting on an inappropriate level with adults. Coming of age dramas are one thing, but do we really need to hear a 13-year-old talking about masturbation or checking his lower regions for evidence of nocturnal emissions?
There is also a parallel subplot involving the affair between Emerson’s mother and a local hunky guy. That serves no purpose, except to present the lovely Rebecca Jenkins (as the adulterous matriarch) in the buff. And to quote Jerry Seinfeld: not that there’s anything wrong with that!