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Garth Jennings
Neil Dudgeon, Bill Milner, Jessica Hynes, Anna Wing, Will Poulter, Tallulah Evans, Finola McMahon, Rachel Mureatroyd, Taylor Richardson, Peter Robinson
Writing Credits:
Garth Jennings

Make Believe. Not War.

A runaway audience smash at the Sundance Film Festival, Son Of Rambow is a hilariously fresh and visually inventive take on friendship, family, film heroes and the death-defying adventures of growing up in the video age. It all begins in 1980s when young Will Proudfoot, encounters something beyond his wildest fantasies: a pirated copy of Rambo: First Blood. His virgin viewing of the iconic thriller blows his mind - and rapidly expanding imagination - wide open. Now, Will sets out to join forces with the seemingly diabolical school bully, Lee Carter, to make their own action epic, devising wildly creative, on-the-fly stunts, not to mention equally elaborate schemes for creating a movie of total commitment and non-stop thrills. But when school popularity finally descends on Will and Lee in the form of, oui, the super-cool French exchange student, Didier Revol, their remarkable new friendship and precious film are pushed, quite literally, to the breaking point.

Box Office:
£4 million.
Opening Weekend
$53.789 thousand on 5 screens.
Domestic Gross
$1.784 million.

Rated PG-13

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 95 min.
Price: $19.99
Release Date: 8/26/2008

• Audio Commentary with Director Garth Jennings, Producer Nick Goldsmith and Actors Bill Milner and Will Poulter
• “Boys Will Be Boys: The Making of Son of Rambow” Featurette
• Garth’s Short Film Aron
Son of Rambow Website Winner
• Previews

Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Harman/Kardon DPR 2005 7.1 Channel Receiver; Toshiba A-30 HD-DVD/1080p Upconverting DVD Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Son Of Rambow (2008)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 26, 2008)

While I admit I’m leery of pubescent male bonding flicks, I decided that the premise of 2008’s Son of Rambow made it quirky enough to deserve a look. Set in England circa the mid-1980s, we meet Will Proudfoot (Bill Milner), a youngster whose family belongs to an extremely conservative religious faction that forbids exposure to modern devices like television.

This lifestyle feels stifling for Will, and it opens him up to the temptations provided by school bully Lee Carter (Will Poulter). It turns out that Lee made a bootleg video of First Blood and Will manages to give it a look. This astounds and inspires him, and he envisions himself as an action hero he refers to as the “Son of Rambow”. Lee wants to make a movie on video, so Will convinces him to film their own “Rambow” flick. We follow their project as well as other adventures and relationship issues.

As I alluded at the start, Rambow comes with baggage from its genre. We’ve seen so many flicks ala Stand By Me that give us the semi-sentimental tales of pubescent boys, and they usually seem tedious and treacly. I expected that from Rambow, and I occasionally got it. Subplots deal with the oppressiveness of Lee’s older brother as well as Will’s sadness about his dead father.

These periodically threaten to bog down Rambow in sappiness, but the film boasts too much of a wicked edge for those trends to truly submerge it. The primary attraction comes from Poulter’s performance. He gives Lee a casually cruel tone that makes him oddly endearing. He never feels like a cutesy kid, as he shows a natural sense of comedic meanness that benefits the film. He’s an incorrigible little prick, but he makes the part both funny and real. As horrible as he can be, Lee remains oddly likable.

Milner also does well in the less flashy role. Will is such an innocent that he easily could have become irritating in his naivete, but Milner offers a quiet charm that works for the part. He and Poulter share a nice chemistry and feel like real kids, not the standard annoying movie creations.

Their partnership goes a long way toward the film’s ultimate success. Rambow occasionally starts to veer in a precocious direction, and it leans toward sappiness as well. Happily, it manages to skirt those trends pretty well. The whole theme related to the kids’ less-than-stellar home lives rears its head, but not in a way that feels trite or sentimental.

I do have one chronological gripe: it’s never particularly clear in what year the movie’s supposed to take place. The presence of First Blood at the theater implies it’s 1982, but when I go by the music featured to date it, we find plenty of tunes from as many as five years later. Since we also find 1983’s Yentl on the big screen, I suspect it’s supposed to be 1982/1983 but the filmmakers got sloppy with their tune selection.

Despite that minor quibble, Rambow offers a fairly entertaining take on its youthful drama. It features a look at childhood friendship and bonds, but it doesn’t turn into something too cliché. Heck, I would’ve been happy if the film didn’t actively annoy me, so the decent charms on display come as a plus.

The DVD Grades: Picture C+/ Audio B-/ Bonus B-

Son of Rambow appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The film featured a watchable but mediocre transfer.

Sharpness seemed erratic. Most shots were reasonably crisp, but more than a few looked a little loose and soft. Some moderate edge haloes exacerbated that problem and made definition inconsistent. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering appeared, and only a few examples of source flaws occurred. I saw a couple of small specks and that was about it.

Colors tended to be a little flat. Some exterior shots offered pretty good vivacity, but much of the film appeared just a bit dull in terms of color reproduction. Blacks appeared reasonably dark and tight, while shadows showed acceptable clarity. All of this added up to a “C+” for visuals.

I didn’t get much more from the fairly low-key Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Rambow. Music offered good stereo imaging, and the mix provided a decent sense of environment. A few scenes such as Will’s fantasies managed to open up the sides and rears in a more engaging manner, but these didn’t pop up with much frequency. This remained a subdued track most of the time, which was what I expected from a film of this sort.

Audio quality satisfied. Speech always remained concise and natural, without edginess or other issues. Music sounded lively and full, while effects appeared clear and accurate. Bass response was perfectly acceptable. Nothing here stood out as particularly impressive, but I thought the audio merited a “B-“.

A few extras fill out the set. First comes an audio commentary from director Garth Jennings, producer Nick Goldsmith and actors Bill Milner and Will Poulter. All four sit together for this running, screen-specific piece that looks at story issues and some alterations to the original script, sets and locations, cast and performances, the film’s reception, and general production experiences/anecdotes.

This becomes a rather freewheeling chat. In an odd homage to the commentary for Vanilla Sky, Jennings occasionally plays incongruous music as alternate score, and the kids’ mothers join the track for a brief while to add their two cents. It could – and probably should – have become a mess, but instead it turns into a fun and cheeky but still informative discussion. Though I wouldn’t call it a great commentary, it’s entertaining and useful enough to merit a listen.

Next comes a featurette called Boys Will Be Boys: The Making of Son of Rambow. This 26-minute and three-second piece mixes movie clips, shots from the set, and remarks from Milner, Poulter, Jennings, and Goldsmith. We visit the boats used as production offices, cast and performances, the atmosphere on the set, the film’s development and path to the screen, and a few other production elements.

Since “Boys” only features remarks from the four commentary participants, I feared it would do little more than repeat their thoughts from that track. Happily, they manage to cover a number of different issues here. Of prime interest are Jennings’ notes about how his childhood influenced the story, and the behind the scenes material also adds life. This turns into a good little program.

Garth’s Short Film Aron fills 10 minutes, 47 seconds. It presents an action flick Jennings shot on video as a teen. At no point does it threaten to become good, but it’s not bad for something done by a kid. It also clearly demonstrates the Rambo influence that would show up in Rambow; Jennings mentions this in “Boys” and we see it here.

We also find the Son of Rambow Website Winner. This five-minute and three-second piece offers a short videotaped film made by “A. and P. Dunn”, apparently shot back in 1996 if we believe the video time stamps. It presents another Rambo-style effort. The DVD doesn’t make it clear what the website contest involved or anything else about the short; it just shows up here without commentary. Like Aron, it’s not bad for something done by kids at home.

A few ads open the DVD. We get clips for American Teen, The Duchess and The Love Guru. These also appear in the Previews area along with promos for The Rolling Stones: Shine a Light and Drillbit Taylor. No trailer for Rambow appears here.

A fairly unsentimental take on the “coming of age” genre, Son of Rambow provides an entertaining fable. It succeeds largely due to some fine performances from its leads, and it also narrowly avoids the sentimental trends that mar so many films of this sort. The DVD provides acceptable but ordinary picture and audio along with a few good extras. I’d at least recommend a rental for this good little flick.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.3333 Stars Number of Votes: 3
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