Son Of Rambow
R1 - America - Paramount Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James Teitelbaum (15th September 2008).
The Film

Back in 1983, a pair of teenage boys began shooting a shot-for-shot remake of "The Raiders of the Lost Ark" in their backyards. Six years later, they finally finished their project, which - after having been shelved for more than a decade - has become a rather quaint underground classic. Using the basic premise as a starting point - two young boys in the early 1980's remaking a contemporary action movie - writer/director Garth Jennings has expanded on the story, spinning it off into a textured and layered tale of friendship and the pressures thereof.

"Raiders of the Lost Ark" (1981) has been replaced with "Rambo: First Blood" (1982), and the story has been moved from The United States to the United Kingdom, but the most significant addition to the story is the layered and detailed backstory and characterization.

Young Lee Proudfoot (Bill Milner) is miserable. He is a repressed young man whose father is dead, and whose mother is a member of an unspecified fundamentalist religious sect. This is the sort of hypocritical and self-delusional organization that is so wrapped up in certain unimportant aspects and details of their religion that they perhaps forget the core values or the real meaning of their faith. Lee is a good kid, but he is repressed and extremely unhappy. He escapes into a fantasy world by creating profusely illustrated fantasy tales in a notebook.

Meanwhile, Lee Carter (Will Poulter) has a similarly unhappy family life. His father is also absent, and his mother isn't around much either. His only real role model is his much-older bother, who is a self-absorbed bully. Thus, Lee Carter also becomes a bully - and Lee Proudfoot is his primary target. Amidst this drama, a busload of foreign exchange students show up from France, including a kid named Didier (Jules Sitruk) who appears to be the lost sixth member of Duran Duran, circa 1984.

These three players come together when the Lees end up collaborating on a film, and Didier wants to be a part of it. Carter has the ambition to win a film contest, Proudfoot has the imagination and the ideas, and Didier has become the most popular kid in school, and has a small army of sycophants willing to do his bidding - so he puts them to work on the film.

Given this premise, the "Son of Rambow" teeters right on the edge: on one hand, it is a very funny meditation on childhood whimsy and the meaning of friendship, and on the other it is an effusively schmaltzy and rather predictable feel-good movie. Ultimately, the movie comes out just barely on the former side of the equation. The best things about the the film, however, are all details and small moments: acting moments, writing moments, camera moments, All of them are little things here and there that ornament and decorate the otherwise rather tired story, and bring the film to a level of enjoyability that it might not otherwise have had.

Video

The aspect ratio is 2.35:1, anamorphic. One of the high points of this film is the cinematography of Jess Hall, who summons no less a painter of light than Johannes Vermeer right after the opening credits, and never looks back. Hall's work, as well as the fun little animations and special effects that pop up from time to time, are solidly presented on the DVD. The colors seem accurate, and the picture is sharp and free of any distracting enhancements. Running time is 1:35:30, divided into fourteen chapters.

Audio

"Son of Rambow" is presented in English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround or Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, with subtitles in English, Spanish, and French. Dialogue recording is fine but the music is often right up front. This is a mixed blessing. When certain 1980's hits pop up - such as tunes by Gary Numan or - it is a welcome immersion into the period of the film. However, whenever the original score by Joby Talbot presents itself, the film becomes nearly unbearable. Talbot can't seem to decide if he wants to emulate Danny Elfman's "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure" (1985) score, or something particularly mawkish by John Williams (perhaps "E.T." (1982)), or maybe something by Mark Mothersbaugh? Perhaps these multiple musical references to the eighties were intentional, but in any case, the result is a particularly sappy and particularly derivative score that is a bit hard to take at times.

Extras

Paramount has released this film with an audio commentary, a featurette, two short films and a collection of bonus trailers. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

First up is an audio commentary with director Garth Jennings, producer Nick Goldsmith, with cast members Bill Milner and Will Poulter. All concerned parties have a freeform conversation, wherein the reminisce about making the movie most of the time, although Jennings does interject a few interesting facts about the film making process from time to time. Young Will Poulter seems a bit mouthy.

"Boys Will Be Boys: The Making of Son of Rambow" runs for 26 minutes 4 seconds; and is another basic, behind-the-scenes featurette, with plenty of on-set footage, and extended footage of the two young stars having a conversation with the director and producer.

Garth's short film, "Aron" is next and runs for 10 minutes 47 seconds; this is a shaky and washed out early (1986) short film from Garth Jennings. The making of this film clearly served as inspiration for the story of "Son of Rambow".

"Son of Rambow" Website Winner follows and runs for 5 minutes 4 seconds; this is another short film, a sort of spy drama. Audio and video are both very low-fidelity. No context is given for the film, but based on the title, it was the winner of a contest of some sort.

There are also bonus trailers for:

- "Shine A Light" which runs for 2 minutes 33 seconds.
- "Drillbit Taylor" which runs for 2 minutes 30 seconds.
- "American Teen" which runs for 2 minutes 55 seconds.
- "The Duchess" which runs for 1 minute 46 seconds.
- "The Love Guru" which runs for 2 minutes 28 seconds.

Overall

The Film: B+ Video: A Audio: B Extras: B+ Overall: B

 


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