Sunday, September 7, 2008

#61: Son of Rambow


Son of Rambow
Directed by Garth Jennings
Written by Garth Jennings
Released April 4, 2008 (UK)

Beginning in 1982, three young friends in Mississippi began shooting a shot-for-shot remake of the first Indiana Jones film, Raiders of the Lost Ark. It took them seven years to complete, and by the end of the process, their friendships had been torn apart. It took almost two decades - and a lot of Internet legend - for that film, which became known as Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation, to surface. I first heard about the remarkable accomplishment on the Aint it Cool website, but the March 2004 issue of Vanity Fair featured a story about the movie, called Raiders of the Lost Backyard. (I highly rec' following that link for the whole, unbelievable story of how these kids made a movie.)

Now, I can't say for certain that Garth Jennings knew about this story when he wrote Son of Rambow, but I couldn't help but think about those Raiders kids as I watched Jennings' uplifting, heartwarming film about two unlikely friends who come together to pay tribute to the action classic First Blood.

Son of Rambow opens with an immediate juxtaposition of its two main characters: as young Will Proudfoot (Bill Milner) joins his family and the other members of the oppressive religious "brethren" in a protest outside of a small movie theater, Lee Carter (Will Poulter) - the bully at Will's school - sits inside smoking a cigarette and making a VHS bootleg video copy of the aforementioned Stallone film.

Soon, a chance meeting in the hallway of their school (Proudfoot is not allowed to watch anything on television, so he is sitting in the hallway when Carter is booted from class) leads the two boys to begin spending time together. Proudfoot "accidentally" watches Carter's bootleg of First Blood and his mind, already bursting with fantastical images that he draws on any surface he can find, becomes obsessed with his own version of the Rambo story: he is the titular son of John Rambo, and must save his fictional father from the clutches of an evil character named Scarecrow, an army of followers, and a flying dog with machine guns on his wings.

The boys also cross paths with a charismatic French foreign exchange student, who has become so bored with making out with every girl at their school that he and his band of hangers-on attempt to co-op the making of the film. This intrusion leads to various places, namely a hilarious scene involving a very Wes Anderson-ian "backstage" party and the splintering of Carter and Proudfoot's friendship. Really, the whole movie has this Rushmore through the eyes of Michel Gondry vibe, if Max Fischer loved movies instead of Mrs. Cross.

I pretty much loved every single thing about Son of Rambow, from the incredible performances by all the young actors (Poulter's comic timing is insane for a boy his age, and he reminded me a lot of River Phoenix in Stand by Me) to Jennings' gorgeous directing and Jess Hall's sumptuous cinematography (if you think I'm being a little flowery with "sumptuous," wait until you see how cool Hall manages to make burned out buildings and wreckage look). I had to work immediately after watching this at home, and really regretted not being able to take in a second viewing, with or without the commentary track.

Son of Rambow marks the 1/6th point of my completion with this 365 movies in a year project, and I couldn't think of a better way to reinvigorate myself to keep this going. This movie was truly a hidden gem that I am really disappointed I didn't see at my local arthouse theater in Omaha in the one week it swept through town. It's a killer meditation on childhood, friendship, and the kind of sense of fantasy and adventure that the world eventually tears away from us as we grow older.

For more on Son of Rambow:
- Movie information at IMDB and Wikipedia.
- Check out the official site.

The Son of Rambow trailer:

YouTube has the first 10 minutes of Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation:

No comments: