Movie News & Reviews

'Rambow' proves power of pretending

I haven't seen the last "Rambo" movie. But from what I hear, it may not inspire young children to grow up and make movies as the first "Rambo" movie did for Garth Jennings, who divulges this info in his semiautobiographical, coming-of-age flick "Son of Rambow." (From what I also hear, the last "Rambo" movie shouldn't be viewed by either children or adults with any dang sense.)

Jennings, a Brit music-video guy (R.E.M., Blur) who went Hollywood when he translated "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" to the big screen a few years back, goes low-budget with "Rambow," which tells of the unlikely, by-chance pairing of two night-and-day schoolkids in 1980s England.

Will Proudfoot (Bill Milner) is a sheltered, scribbling lad who comes from a Plymouth Brethren community (they're the Brit equivalent to the Amish) and is still mourning the loss of his father. Lee Carter (Will Poulter) is a scheming, smoking, loathed-by-the-student-body juvenile delinquent, making a side living videotaping and bootlegging movies for his big brother's video-pirating operation.

Will gets a glance at one of these films, "First Blood," and gets immediately wowed by the main character's ability to take out 200 men single-handedly. With Will going on a Rambo-emulating tear, Lee makes him the stuntman for a short film, a sequel of sorts to "Blood," he's making for a young-filmmaker contest. Needless to say, these two lost boys come to realize how much they need each other during filming.

Indeed, "Rambow," which premiered at Sundance a year-and-a-half ago, is a charming, predictable-yet-pleasant curio. Jennings, along with producer/longtime partner Nick Goldsmith, neatly conceive an eccentric kids' world that's as fantastic and cinematic as the films these kids re-create. This is Jennings and Goldsmith's fancy way of laying out what "Rambow" is really about: kids losing themselves in fiction to escape from their often awkward, occasionally agonizing, usually boring existence. (Yeah, it's basically "Heavenly Creatures" -- without the Mom-murdering.) Nearly every kid in the movie wishes he was somebody or somewhere else.

When a hip, extravagant, French exchange student (Jules Sitruk) shows up at school, everybody starts copying him. But it turns out, when he learns of Will and Lee's project, the kid would rather be on-camera, acting like Patrick Swayze in "Red Dawn." According to Jennings and Goldsmith, even the coolest kids need to pretend.

"Son of Rambow" is such a nice, enjoyable and -- dare I say it! -- heartwarming ride, it's surprising to hear how much of a pain it was for Jennings to find financing and get this film off the ground. From the looks of it, Jennings has a better understanding of what movie escapism provides for young, impressionable audiences than most big-budget, blockbuster-churning filmmakers.

After watching "Son of Rambow," I'd rather have a Garth Jennings giving moviegoers summer movies every year than the usual bunch of Brett Ratners doing it.