Son Of Rambow (Paramount, 2007) D: Garth Jennings, w/ Bill Milner, Will Poulter. Rating: NNNN; DVD package: NNNN
Sometimes less is more. Director Garth Jennings's last outing, the $50 million Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, didn't bring much joy, but he's given us the year's funniest comedy on a mere £4 million and the energy of two small boys who set out to make their own Rambo movie.
Some of the kids' homemade stunts are things we've all done ourselves, with or without a movie camera nearby, and some are pure whimsy. Most will raise a smile, and some are laugh-out-loud funny.
Jennings does it with a deadpan gaze and a Looney Tunes sense of timing that reaches its peak with the amazing flying dog. There's even a bit of sprightly animation to represent Will Proudfoot's dreams and daydreams.
Beneath the comedy is an okay story about the friendship of two very different boys. Despite a dreary life in a Christian cult, Will is full of imagination and a desire to cut loose. He needs only a little prompting from bad boy Lee Carter, who suffers from a complete lack of parenting. Neither Jennings's script nor the acting of his young leads is quite up to the mark when the friendship hits its inevitable crisis, but they've built up enough goodwill by then that we readily forgive a little clunkiness.
Bill Milner, playing Will, and Will Poulter, Lee, are both first-timers, 12-year-olds playing 10. They're appealing without peddling cuteness, and they're clearly having the time of their lives. As the French exchange student who horns into their movie, Jules Sitruk does a great awkward hipster.
The making-of doc and commentary are fun and informative and benefit greatly from the presence of Milner and Poulter, who are clearly still having a great time.
EXTRAS Director, producer, Milner and Poulter commentary, making-of doc, more. Widescreen. English, Spanish audio. English, French, Spanish subtitles.