After a protracted rights hang-up that saw its release delayed more
than a year from its Sundance 2007 bow — until after the recent Rambo sequel — the canted coming-of-age comedy Son of Rambow finally saw release earlier this spring. While it didn’t at all hook on with Stateside audiences in theaters — pulling in only $1.8 million of its $10.1 million cumulative haul — its DVD release gives fans of whimsical coming-of-age tales a chance to rediscover the movie.
Set in small town Great Britain
in the 1980s, the movie centers on floppy-armed, pint-sized, fatherless pre-teen
Will Proudfoot (Bill Milner, above right), who lives with his mother and sister as members of a puritanical
religious sect in which recorded entertainment is strictly forbidden.
When Will sees a pirated copy of First Blood, though, his imagination explodes in sugar-rush fashion.
At first blackmailed by rascally ne’er-do-well Lee Carter (Will
Poulter, above left) into helping him out on a stunt reel, Will
convinces his unlikely new pal, a wrong-side-of-the-tracks troublemaker, that they should make their own action epic. When
disenchanted French exchange student Didier (Jules Sitruk) catches wind
and demands a part in the production, suddenly everyone wants in on Will and Lee Carter’s
Written and directed by Garth Jennings (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the
Galaxy), Son of Rambow exudes a handcrafted feel, and is at its best
when seducing us with its
madcap, visually inventive style.
Will and Lee Carter are “types,” though, and their relationship runs a
bit hot-cold; I wished the movie showed more of them actually bickering
and working things out. I was also really intrigued and amused by
Didier, and the notion — introduced in a throwaway bit late in the
movie — that he
was a bit of a poseur, which is to say alien-cool to the Brits, but a
dork to all the rest of the French kids. Jennings unfortunately wastes
the rich comic potential of this premise. Finally, the movie too is
more than a a bit unrealistic with regards to Will’s mother’s sudden slide away from the hermetic existence which they’ve been leading; that just doesn’t pass the smell test. In fact, less is more; Son of Rambow
doesn’t earn or need the tearful scene of familial reconciliation,
centering around the return of a watch belonging to Will’s late father.
This is a extra-familial story, about finding acceptance and
brotherhood outside of conventional structures.
Still, the two lead performances here — one salty, one sweet — give this movie lift. In particular the gangly Milner is unforcedly charming, and physically
sort of a live-action version of Fievel Mouskewitz, from 1986’s An American Tail. Tonally, Son of Rambow has an undeniable pinch of that same comic-tinged nostalgia that makes 1983’s A Christmas Story the de rigueur
holiday viewing for all the alt-cool Christian families out there.
Housed in a regular plastic Amray case, Son of Rambow comes presented in widescreen, enhanced for 16×9 televisions, with English and Spanish language Dolby digital 5.1 surround sound audio tracks, and optional French, English and Spanish subtitles. Jennings and producing partner Nick Goldsmith anchor a nice audio commentary track, with Milner and Poulter sitting in as well. Two DIY supplemental shorts are also included; the first is a five-minute film that was the winner of a film-sponsored web site contest, the other is Aron, Jennings’ 10-minute 1986 short that was the inspiration for Son of Rambow. Wrapping things up is a great 26-minute making-of featurette, which includes rehearsal footage and laid-back group interview bits, and also showcases the Hammer & Tongs production offices, which consists of two barge boats on Regents Canal. (“Thus we’re an armada,” says Goldsmith, cheekily.) Previews for Shine a Light, Drillbit Taylor and American Teen are also featured. B (Movie) B+ (Disc)