Matt Hurt’s review published on Letterboxd:
Part of my low rating may be due to having just finished re-reading the novella before watching this for the first time.
King is very hard to adapt and Apt Pupil makes a solid effort. Some things are streamlined, some dropped entirely. The finished product is just okay, though. I very rarely connected with Brad Renfro's performance. It seems like the majority of the movie he's just phoning it in and doesn't quite understand how to play his scenes. So a lot of his lines fall flat.
It seems as though the movie forgets that there's a cat and mouse power struggle that's supposed to be happening between the two characters. When the movie remembers it (ie the uniform present scene and the meeting with the guidance counselor scene), it hits it well enough. But it's pretty infrequent.
However, the most disappointing aspect of the movie is in the characterization of Todd. Maybe it's because Renfro's performance fell so flat, but there's not enough setup to his derangement and growing curiosity/obsession toward nazism.
If I can be allowed to compare it to the novella in one instance, all I'll say is the book hands any screenwriter looking to adapt it a bone-chilling ending on a silver platter. Whether it was for artistic reasons or studio pressure (it doesn't matter), junking the book's ending in favor of what the movie delivers is a hurdle I really can't clear in my viewing.
Also, Joshua Jackson is in this and since it was the late 90s, he's obviously saddled with playing the "not very serious, goofy best friend" role he was so famous for then. He does a fine job but, unless I missed something, the movie inexplicably drops him entirely from the narrative and that's a bummer.
Didn't do it for me.