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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 29.03%
Average: 3.23%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 0%

4 reviews, 7 user ratings

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Son of Rambow
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by Jay Seaver

"Great for kids and former kids."
5 stars

"Son of Rambow" knows kids. You can tell from the opening credits, where a twelve-year-old boy runs through the neighborhood, only stopping long enough to cause mischief, or when the little sister of the other main character simply can't stand still even though her jumping around might distract from the two people talking. The movie shares its young cast's surplus of energy, and even though it's got adult wisdom to it, the end result's never a lecture.

The kid running across town after sneaking a VHS camera into a cinema to record First Blood is Lee Carter (Will Poulter), a brat who lives in the back of a nursing home with his brother Lawrence while their mother spends her time in Spain with her new husband. He soon meets his polar opposite in Will Proudfoot (Bill Milner) when both are sent into the hallway during school - Lee for being a disruption, Will because his family's strict religion means he's not allowed to even watch the documentary being shown in geography class. Will already loves to draw, and when he winds up accidentally watching the Stallone movie while hiding from Lee's brother, it's like nothing he's imagined before. Soon the pair are shooting their own sequel together, even though that means hiding the project from Lawrence (Ed Westwick) and Lee's mother Mary (Jessica Stevenson). Meanwhile, the arrival of a group of French exchange students, particularly ultra-cool Didier (Jules Sitruk), is blowing other kids' minds the same way the movie blew Will's.

Among other things, Son of Rambow is a love letter to the movies, making them as much as watching them. We see Will stunned and amazed by his first movie-watching experience, transported into another world where a scarecrow can come alive and be the villain in the movie they're going to make. He's already been making flipbooks, and soon he's drawing scenes in his Bible that evolve into storyboards. Will and Lee are about as far from cool as kids can be, but once the word gets out about what they're doing, Didier and his crew suddenly want to hang out with them, because what's as cool as making a movie? Of course, once Didier joins up, it doesn't take much to read the next scenes as a riff on going from small independent films to big studio works, with more people on the set than you can handle and demanding stars taking charge.

Writer/director Garth Jennings doesn't spend so much time talking about movies that he shirks his duty to make a good one, though. This is basically a coming-of-age buddy flick at heart. Will and Lee are a fine pair of opposites: Lee is a pint-sized thief and con man, Will's a sheltered kid who dives in head-first because he's never had this sort of outlet for his creativity before. They make a good team, whether Lee is taking advantage of Will in a Tom Sawyer manner or just busting out laughing at some of the screwy stuff that Will does. Their misadventures are honestly funny, with a perfect level of whimsy. Jennings is also very good at presenting physical comedy and genuine peril differently, which becomes a factor toward the end of the movie. I love things like the repeated sound of cheering when Lee is kicked out of his classroom, and how it lightens up a potentially heavy moment toward the end.

The most important thing Jennings and his producing partner Nick Goldsmith do, though, is get great performances out of Milner and Poulter. The movie would likelky disintegrate completely if we ever stopped believing they were genuine early-eighties kids. One false note, whether it be a script that was too self-aware or a young actor who can't just relax and play on-screen and the movie would be a goner, just adults who couldn't get the kids quite right. Happily, that never happens. Will Poulter is especially terrific; he makes Lee the sort of kid that would drive the adults who had to deal with him absolutely insane but shows the audience he's not really a bad kid (there aren't any really bad kids in this movie's world). Bill Milner finds just the right notes to hit for Will; he's as much a regular kid as his unusual environment will allow. He never plays Will as stupid, or even ignorant - he's just uninformed.

The movie belongs to Milner and Poulter, but the rest of the cast is good. Jules Sitruk is pretty darn hilarious embodying everything about the eighties which has become embarrassing twenty years later. Jessica Stevenson is just right as Will's mother; there's a whole other movie about how she and Neil Dudgeon's fellow sect member Joshua are attracted whenever they're both on screen, although Jennings keeps it implied, so as not to distract from the kids or make the film too harsh or easy a condemnation of the characters' beliefs.

I can't say for sure that kids will love this movie; there weren't any at the screening I attended. The former kids there got a real kick out of it, though, and there's enough straightforward fun without talking down or over-reliance on nostalgia that there's no reason for them not to have a good time.

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originally posted: 05/02/08 14:00:00
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2007 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: Fantastic Fest 2007 For more in the Fantastic Fest 2007 series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Florida Film Festival For more in the 2008 Florida Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Philadelphia Film Festival For more in the 2008 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

12/07/08 VCL3 Predictably funny but unpredictably moving. 5 stars
12/02/08 Shaun Wallner Very Funny! 5 stars
9/05/08 pHylum Lite but lovable. Give us more oddly matched character like these 2 kids. 4 stars
7/29/08 caiphn Cute and suprisingly funny. 4 stars
4/05/08 sulky Great review. I saw it Rambow today. Adored it! 5 stars
5/26/07 Blackbrain Charming and funny, but the secondary cast should have more development. 4 stars
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  02-May-2008 (PG-13)
  DVD: 26-Aug-2008


  DVD: 26-Aug-2008

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