May 15, 2008

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Son of Rambow (PG-13)
Two young boys get movie fever — one wants to direct, one is transfixed by the action he sees in First Blood — and decide to shoot their own in Son of Rambow, a delightful British film set in the 1980s.

Will Proudfoot (Bill Milner) lives a strict TV- and movies-less existence, due to the demands of his religion, but that doesn’t stop him from filling notebook pages with colorful scenes of adventure. Lee Carter (Will Poulter) could use a bit of strictness in his life — his brother Lawrence (Ed Westwick of Gossip Girl fame) offers the only kind of adult supervision, which isn’t saying much. It’s Lawrence, after all, who sends Lee to the movies, video camera in hand, to shoot a bootleg of First Blood. Through a series of misadventures at school (I’m guessing, roughly, middle school), social outcast Lee convinces cultural outcast Will to help him with some mischief, the result of which is that Will winds up in front of the TV for the entirety of First Blood. Absolutely besotted by the characters and the action, Will turns his notebook into a story board for a kind of fantastical version of the Rambo movie, complete with flying dogs that can drop bombs. Lee Carter, a budding director, sees Will’s notebook and decides it’s just the inspiration he needs to shoot the movie he’s been planning, one he can enter into a national contest. Of course, such things are technically against Will’s religion so the boys have to sneak off at odd hours to shoot the crazy stunts and “jungle” shots that fill the story of the Son of Rambow (the “w” is Will’s misspelling and, one guesses, the movie’s legal hedge), the boy who seeks to rescue his father from enemies that may include ninjas and a metal-pail-headed scarecrow.

As the shooting continues, Will enjoys a bit of popularity with the addition of French foreign exchange student Didier (Jules Sitruk), who is, to the middle school world of this small-ish British town, George Clooney with Antonio Banderas’ accent. Along with him come sycophants, boys acting cool and girls fawning all over Didier. These scenes of Will briefly “going Hollywood” are some of the movie’s funniest.

The scenes that win prizes for both humor and charm, however, are the ones with just Lee and Will. Whether they’re just hanging out or trying to shoot — with Spielberg- and Lucas-like sincerity — scenes involving either or both dressed up in vaguely military-ish costumes, hamming it up as they fight unseen bad guys or sneak through the wooded area that passes as the jungle, the boys manage a genuineness that keeps the movie from ever seeming precious. They seem like real boys doing the occasionally nutty, occasionally dangerous things boys do when they play Rambo or army or Star Wars. And, in an odd meta twist, there is a joy about the boys’ approach to movies that reminds the viewer of the joy of movies, particularly movies as big-hearted and fun as this one. B

Rated PG-13 for violence and reckless behavior. Written and directed by Garth Jennings, Son of Rambow is an hour and 35 minutes long and is distributed by Paramount Vantage.