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Screen Surfer

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WHEN TEEN ACTRESS CHRISTINA Ricci angrily e-mailed Roger Davidson, the Internet’s self-titled Teen Movie Critic, chastising him for panning her film Casper, Davidson could sympathize. “I get lots of letters saying I’m a stupid young punk,” he wrote back. Even so, the Minneapolis 17-year-old shrugs off any suggestion that he’s too young to pass public judgment on Hollywood’s hits and flops. Most critics “are out of touch, Jurassic,” says Davidson. “There’s no one else really reviewing movies for kids.”

Since April 1995, Davidson has been posting four reviews a week on the Internet: from the NC 17-rated Showgirls (which he awarded one star for “laughable dialogue and extremely bad acting”) to the 1958 Orson Welles classic Touch of Evil (four stars as “one of the greatest films in the history of cinema”). Although he often reviews older films on video (“I can’t afford a lot of movies”), nearly 500 people now read his critiques daily, and about 50 respond with e-mail. Among the latter: fellow critic Roger Ebert, who chatted with Davidson on a local radio call-in show, and director John Singleton, who began a casual correspondence in January after reading some of his reviews.

Davidson (who uses the surname of his maternal grandfather) is unfazed by these brushes with fame. Of course he is accustomed to the unconventional. The youngest of 15 children (counting 11 half siblings from his parents’ previous marriages), he has been home-schooled since ninth grade by his father, Willy Chaplin, 59, a computer programmer, and his mother, Dorothy “Gypsy” Claybourne, 53, a bodybuilder who owns a fitness studio. A film buff since age 2, Davidson never learned to ride a bicycle but says he has seen “thousands and thousands” of movies and hopes one day to attend UCLA’s film school. But for now he has three years until he outgrows his Internet title—and he intends to use them. “It makes me really happy,” he says with a smile, “to help people just by tapping on my computer.”