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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 Peter Sobczynski

"From the Proofreader That Brought You "How She Move"
4 stars

The problem with too many of the so-called “family” movies that are being released these days, such as “Alvin & the Chipmunks” and the fairly monstrous “Speed Racer,” is that too many of them are being aimed exclusively at the youngest members of the typical family unit. Of course, if you fit into that demographic, that is all well and good but if your age has slipped into the double-digit range, they tend to have very little to offer. The best family films--I’ll just toss out “Babe,” “Chicken Run” and the Pixar films (sans “Cars”) as a couple of examples--are the ones that work wonderfully for little kids on the levels that they can appreciate (bright colors, friendly characters and silly slapstick) but which also contain the kind of surprisingly sophisticated elements--wit, charm and coherent plots--that older viewers can respond to as well. Although it doesn’t quite hit the heights of the films that I have cited, the British import “Son of Rambow” is a hugely entertaining example of a genuine family film that will charm and amuse viewers of all ages in ways that that “Speed Racer” claptrap can only dream about.

Set in the early 1980’s in a small English town, the film tells the story of Will Proudfoot (Bill Milner), a fatherless young boy whose mother and siblings belong to a strict religious sect that forbids him from doing virtually anything--he can’t associate with his “worldly” schoolmates and God help him if he was ever caught watching a television or seeing a movie--and his only real means of self-expression are the vivid illustrations that he keeps hidden away from everyone. One day, through circumstances that I will leave for you to discover, he falls into the orbit of school bad boy Lee Carter (Will Poulter), an incorrigible lad whose great dream in life, besides causing as much mischief as humanly possible, is to win a television contest in which viewers are asked to send in their own self-made movies. Armed with a video camera and a bootleg copy of “First Blood,” Carter decides to make his own sequel to that film as his entry and cons Will into helping him. As the two continue on with the production behind the backs of Will’s overprotective family and Lee’s inattentive brother, a genuine friendship begins to unexpectedly emerge. Alas, like most good things about childhood, it is threatened by the influx of outsiders--once a suave French exchange student hears about the film and signs on to appear in it, everyone in the school wants to participate--and both the film and their friendship is threatened.

“Son of Rambow” is the second movie made by the filmmaking team known as Hammer & Tongs (writer-director Garth Jennings and producer Nick Goldsmith).In an interesting flip on the standard filmmaker trajectory, they kicked off their big-screen careers (following years of making music videos for groups like Blur and R.E.M.) with a hugely expensive studio film (“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”) and have now followed it up with a small-scale and deeply personal indie film. Considering the fact that “Hitchhiker” found them following a template already laid down by the late Douglas Adams (which they did surprisingly well, in my opinion), I guess that we can still look upon “Son of Rambow” as their real first film (and from talking to them, I understand that they had planned on making it a few years ago until they were offered the chance to do “Hitchhiker”). Like a lot of first-time films, it is somewhat uneven--subplots involving Will’s mother (Jessica Hynes) and her relationship with another member of their church, Lee’s estranged relationship with his largely absent older brother and the French exchange student who comes between the two friends threaten to completely overwhelm the central story at times--and it takes an unwelcome turn towards the mawkish in the final act but when it does work, which is more often than not, it does so quite wonderfully. A lot of this is due to the nice performances of the two young stars--they develop such a convincing byplay in their scenes together that it feels less like you are watching a couple of young actors at work and more like you have happened upon two ordinary kids at play.

Of course, the bits “Son of Rambow” in which we see the kids trying to make their movie with whatever means they have at their disposal are going to be the ones that viewers will recall most vividly when they tell their friends to see the film. Those scenes are very funny indeed but the screenplay doesn’t rely entirely upon them and there are just as many amusing bits involving the two going about their daily lives. The single most memorable moment of the entire movie, in fact, is the simple moment when we see the look on Will’s face as he experiences a movie with his own eyes for the very first time--any self-respecting will recognize the blessed-out look that signifies that the limitless potential of the big screen has touched yet another instant convert. My guess is that if you take your kids to see this film this weekend instead of “Speed Racer,” the chances are excellent that they will reward you afterwards with just that look

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originally posted: 05/09/08 13:54:49
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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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