Film Scouts Reviews

"The Tic Code"

by Andréa C. Basora

"The Tic Code" is an earnest, well-intentioned treatment of Tourette's Syndrome that ultimately fails to rise above the level of a TV-movie-of-the-week. It is a shame, because the film starts off along a rather original path. Miles (Christopher Marquette) is a young jazz prodigy who is hounded at school for his "weirdness"-his persistent facial and body tics. He finds some solace in the afternoons he spends playing the piano at a jazz club (the film has an impossibly idealized vision of Greenwich Village-what single mother seamstress could possibly afford to live within walking distance of the Village Vanguard?) and it is there he meets a mentor and father figure in the form of Tyrone (Gregory Hines), a saxophone player who also suffers from Tourette's.

Miles' own father, it is revealed in a series of none too subtle references, is a famous jazz musician himself, who could not deal with his son's condition and abandoned the family. If the film were not so intent on demonizing Miles' father as a self-centered, insensitive lout, his character might have provided the opportunity to examine the very real difficulties of raising a child with such a socially disruptive disease. Instead, director Gary Winick chooses the easy way out-the saintly mother who takes it all in stride. There is also an interesting idea floating around about music being an outlet for those who are handicapped either physically and emotionally, but Winick leaves it aside for safer terrain-indeed after the first half hour of "The Tic Code" we never hear Miles play again.

While there are some real and moving scenes--Miles asking his mother, "Which would you rather, no hands or no feet?"; Polly Draper (who also wrote the screenplay) as Miles' mother, Laura, shyly insecure on her first date with Tyrone--there is also some very clumsy storytelling. Fortunately, many of the film's flaws are smoothed over by the fine cast. As Laura, Draper, who has come a long way since her "thirtysomething" days, is just the right mix of sensible and sensitive, and Marquette, while charming and bright, is not afraid to play Miles as an obnoxious little brat when necessary. It is a pity that the film itself did not take as adventurous an approach.

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