Directed By Garth Jennings
Starring Neil Dudgeon, Bill Milner, Jessica Hynes
Family films these days just aren’t as smart as some of the family films of the 80’s. I don’t say that due to my age, I say that based on films like Speed Racer. Films such as The Goonies and Stand By Me continue to be at the top of the family film genre because they are the best in that genre, true family films, films for all ages to actually enjoy. Son of Rambow is a throw back in many ways, not just in the setting and wardrobe but also in that it attempts to regain some of the family film magic created by those classic films.
In a way this film feels like an entry into a new genre of films because there have been a few this year that all share a thematic element; friends remaking their favorite films. Be Kind Rewind is the most popular of these films so far. In that film two friends remake a bunch of films in order to try and save a failing video store. The ultimate entry in this subgenre is the Raiders of the Lost Ark remake, done shot for shot by a bunch of kids just because they love the movie so much.In the film Lee takes a liking to his classmate Will, a gullible kid who isn’t allowed to watch television due to his strict religious upbringing. Lee shoots video of movies creating bootleg tapes and accidentally exposes Will to the classic Sylvester Stallone film First Blood. Prior to seeing this film Will’s imagination came to light through his large and complex drawings, Drawings that helped him deal with his father’s death. It turns out that Lee is a wannabe filmmaker and he initially plays on Will’s gullibility to get him to do some stunts for Lee’s film which he plans to submit to a local young filmmaker competition. Soon though, Will’s imagination is sparked and he is just as excited, if not more so, than Lee to do the film. In the film Will decides that he is the son of Rambo and he is trying to find and rescue his father. Within this story many of Will’s drawings also cone to life, including a flying dog.
The film is about all the things a good family film should be about; friendship, family, growing up, and finding ones’ place in the world. Prior to working on the film Will was a quite kid, trying to draw as little attention to himself as possible and always obeying his mother. The film opens him up and introduces him to a whole new world of friends and adventure. As is expected the original goal of the film, and the original friendship gets lost in the shuffle.
This film is full of laughs, mostly due to the superb acting of the tow lead actors, and a bevy of hilarious stunts and scenes shot for kid’s film. There is a bit of tragedy thrown into the last act which just seems unnecessary because the goal set for the tragedy could easily have been met with the characters simply continuing on the trajectory they were on. Believe me when I say this quibble is just that, a quibble, because everything else in this movie is perfectly rendered that the tragedy while forced will still be effective and the finale will be surprisingly moving.
This film has more heart in it than Speed Racer could ever hope for. It’s also a great film for all ages. It’s funny, it’s dramatic, and it’s moving, a really great time. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have kids and I had a ton of fun with this movie. I came out wanting to run home and watch The Goonies and Stand by Me too!
This anamorphic widescreen presentation is quite strong with great color and solid detail throughout. Black levels are also strong. There is just a bit of grain, some of it due to the use of videotape footage and some of it due to the transfer. Overall the film looks great.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation here is good but not inspiring. Throughout most of the film the presentation does a good job of balancing dialogue, effects, and score but it doesn’t do much else. Outside of a scant few scenes the audio all comes from the center channel. It’s a good enough sort of presentation.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The single disc release comes packaged in a standard amaray case with artwork taken from the poster. The poster is great but it feels a little slapped together for this cover.
There’s a feature commentary that’s fun if a bit light on the informational side. The cast and crew seem to be having a good time watching the film together and their energy is contagious. This commentary is worth at least one viewing. Boys Will Be Boys The Making of Son of Rambow is a brief featurette covering the making of the film featuring interviews with the cast and crew. Also included is the director’s original 10 minute shot-on-video pitch film and a 5 minute film that was part of an online contest held to promote the film.
There’s not much here as far as bonus features and as great as this film is the lackluster bonus features are all the more disappointing. What we get is OK but not very deep or informative.
Son of Rambow is easily one of the best family films to hit theaters and DVD in years and shouldn’t be missed.
Overall (Not an average) 8/10
The Movie 9/10
The Video 8/10
The Audio 6.5/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 5/10
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10