Tic Code, The

Gary Winick’s The Tic Code is a sympathetic but conventional movie about a 12-year-old jazz piano prodigy who suffers from Tourette’s syndrome, an incurable neurological disorder that manifests itself in facial and body tics, loud hiccup-like sounds, and sometimes, in its advanced stages, uncontrollable, unmotivated outbursts of obscenities.

Deserted by his jazz musician father, who regards him as a freak, Miles (Christopher George Marquette) lives alone with his mother, Laura (Polly Draper, who also wrote the screenplay). In the afternoons Miles practices on the piano at the Village Vanguard, which is where he meets one of his idols, trumpet player Tyrone Pike (Gregory Hines), who’s also afflicted with Tourette’s. Tyrone and Laura get romantically involved, but his long-standing strategy of denying his Tourette’s becomes a problem in their relationship.

Marquette handles the technical difficulties of his role with aplomb if not with absolute consistency (it’s hard enough to act like a musical prodigy, let alone one with Tourette’s), Draper is quite moving as a protective single mother who’s insecure about her sexual allure, and Hines, despite his tendency to play to the balcony (he doesn’t just walk out of a room, he makes an exit), convinces us that he’s the right man for this family.

Suitable: ages 13 – 18

USA, 1998

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