- Rated PG-13
- Buy the DVD
All photos © Paramount Vantage
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
ike so many independent films these days, “Son of Rambow” has the misfortune of being virtually impossible to market. That’s really the only reason it’s taken so long for the movie to be released in theaters, because while Paramount Vantage made a great play by picking up director Garth Jennings’ sophomore effort at last year’s Sundance Film Festival, it’s been an uphill battle in figuring out how to get people to actually go see it. They’re definitely on the right track by releasing the movie in conjunction with the upcoming “Rambo” DVD box set, but they’re still going to have trouble convincing moviegoers that this PG-13 comedy is one of the best family films of the year.
Equal parts “Be Kind Rewind” and “Footloose,” the film takes place in 1982 England, where young Will Proudfoot (Bill Milner) has just been mesmerized by a bootleg copy of “First Blood.” Forbidden by his Plymouth Brethren upbringing to associate with “outsiders,” let alone watch TV, Will breaks all the rules when he agrees to star in the short film of fellow classmate, Lee Carter (Will Poulter). Using Will’s “Son of Rambow” idea as the backbone, the duo begins work on their super-secret project, but when a popular French exchange student (Jules Sitruk) – who looks like he just walked out of a Michael Jackson music video – weasels his way into a supporting role, it threatens to tear the young boys’ friendship apart.
After being unfairly criticized for “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” it’s nice to see that Garth Jennings hasn’t shied away from working on other ambitious film projects. “Son of Rambow” isn’t quite as far out of left field as the Douglas Adams novel, but it still requires some very inventive filmmaking to tell a story about a wildly creative pair of boys that’s accessible to both kids and adults. And who better to realize a movie that incorporates animated doodles into its character’s imagination than the director-producer duo (Hammer & Tongs) that created the wacky, stop-motion music video for Blur’s “Coffee and TV”? It’s a match made in heaven, but Jennings’ unique visual style is responsible for only a small percentage of the film's success. The rest is mostly thanks to newcomers Bill Milner and Will Poulter – two fresh faces that aren’t only great little actors, but pitch-perfect in their respective polar roles as the romanticized creator and the stubborn producer.
Unfortunately, the MPAA disagrees that “Son of Rambow” is a family film, or it would have rewarded the movie with a more appropriate PG rating. As it stands, things like underage smoking (an absolute must to correctly capture the period) and simulated violence (what kid doesn’t fantasize about being an action hero?) prevent “Son of Rambow” from reaching the audience it deserves. It’s too bad, because while I’ve always scoffed at the idea that a movie could make you feel like a kid again, “Son of Rambow” does just that. It’s original, highly entertaining, and even promotes the positive use of imagination as a character-defining part of every child’s life, but if actual kids aren’t allowed to see it, then what exactly is the point?
Single-Disc DVD Review:
It’s a good thing the movie itself is so good, because the single-disc release of “Son of Rambow” is a pretty hit-and-miss affair. On one hand, the audio commentary with director Garth Jennings, producer Nick Goldsmith, and stars Bill Milner and Will Poulter is fantastic. The track offers a nice mix of behind-the-scenes info and other random tidbits, and the two young actors speak quite intelligently about their experience. On the other hand, however, is a making-of featurette (“Boys Will Be Boys”) that doesn’t offer nearly as much behind-the-scenes footage as you’d expect, a short film by Jennings that probably shouldn’t have been allowed to see the light of day, and an even worse (but winning) short film from an online contest. In addition, the movie is currently only available at Best Buy, so you'll have to go there (at least for the forseeable future) if you want to pick it up.