SON OF RAMBOW
Review by Michael Jacobson
Stars: Bill Milner, Will
Poulter, Jessica Stevenson, Ed Westwick, Neil Dudgeon, Jules Sitruk
Director: Garth Jennings
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Features: See Review
Length: 95 Minutes
Release Date: August 26, 2008
“Son of Rambo?"
"This has been my best day ever."
The PG 13 rating is a bit of a shame…the MPAA doesn’t allow a film with such a rating to be billed as a family movie, which Son of Rambow clearly is. It’s a funny, affirming effort with two impressive young stars and a lot of imagination.
Will Proudfoot (Milner) is a shy British boy living in the 80s with a lot going on in his head, which seems to be his only escape from his stringent religious upbringing. Lee Carter (Poulter) is a troublemaker. Neither has exemplary family lives; Will’s father is gone, leaving his mother (Stevenson) trying to raise him under the strict guidance of their church, while Lee’s whole family seems missing except for a rather uncaring older brother (Westwick).
Will isn’t even allowed to watch television, so when his class views an educational video, he’s sent into the hall, where he meets Lee, banished from his class for disrupting. Though Lee is a bit of a bully, the two strike up an unusual friendship, as Lee sort of tricks Will into being the stuntman for a home movie he’s making in hopes of winning a BBC prize.
Lee has a pirated copy of First Blood, which I assume is Will’s first experience with a motion picture. It sets his mind ablaze. Will envisions a new epic for the friends to film, and in it, he will play the son of John Rambo, out to rescue his dad from an evil scarecrow (trust me, it works).
This sets the stage for adventure and mischief, as Will’s enthusiasm for the project is always in danger if his mother and church group ever find out what he’s doing. Not to mention the boys’ rather guerilla style of movie-making seems risky. Shouldn’t Will have mentioned he couldn’t swim a lot sooner than he did?
Adding to the hilarity is a group of French exchange students who arrive at the boys’ school, led by the new wave and eternally bored Didier (Sitruk), who amusingly manages to amass an entourage of hero worshippers around the campus. When he learns of what Will and Lee are doing, he wants in, envisioning himself as a Patrick Swayze-modeled hero. Hey, why not?
It’s lightweight, but thoroughly charming, thanks to the appeal of the two young stars, who are both splendid actors. The concept of making your own version of a Hollywood monster hit may have been played for more laughs in Be Kind Rewind, but Son of Rambow is less strange and has more heart. Word is that even Sylvester Stallone himself loved this movie.
But oh, that pesky PG 13…was it really necessary? I guess kids putting themselves in peril constantly is enough to make a few parents shudder. What a shame…if I had kids, I think they’d enjoy this offering as much as I did. And hey, there are three more Rambo films…instant sequels, anyone?
BONUS TRIVIA: Though Stallone endorsed the film, the 'w' had to be added to the name for legal reasons.
The anamorphic transfer is mostly undemanding, but serves the youthful antics well, with even a bit of animation thrown in here and there for good measure. Colors are natural looking and detail level is mostly quite strong.
The 80s music is a nice touch; could have used more. Apart from that, the 5.1 audio offers decent dynamic range, cleanly rendered dialogue, and nice moments of comedic action to keep it lively.
There is a fun commentary with director Garth Jennings, producer Nick Goldsmith and the two young stars. There is also a making-of featurette, Jenning’s original short film that inspired the movie, and a web contest winning film that’s short and amusing.
Kids will be kids, and thank heavens for that. Son of Rambow plays with all the heart and imagination of the stars’ young minds, and despite the unlucky rating, deserves to be considered a fun time for the whole family.