Here’s my review from Sundance last year. “Son of Rambow,” the second film from music video team Hammer & Tongs, whose first was the not so well received “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” is long in coming it was delayed due to a legal struggle with StudioCanal over use of footage from “Rambo: First Blood.” Word is, again, mixed on the way whimsical film about two children shooting their own sequel to Stallone’s action film.
Lisa Schwarzbaum at Entertainment Weekly sighs that director Garth Jennings and producer Nick Goldsmith “display plenty of whirligig energy, if not much control or lightness of touch,” while Scott Tobias at the Onion AV Club suggest that “make that check out to Wes Anderson, care of Rushmore Academy, with a portion of the residuals due to Jean-Pierre Jeunet (AmÃ©lie) and his signature Rube Goldberg setpieces.” He finds “the film works better in sequences than as a whole, and suffers from an overly familiar homemade aesthetic.” Nick Schager at Slant seconds the Anderson comparison, preferring the first half of the film to the second: “Jennings’s interest in dramatizing youthful male bonds of friendship and cinema’s function as a unifying medium giving way to sappy clashes and even sappier resolutions.” “Son of Rambow turns unfortunately insular and maudlin about the desperate sources of its boyhood outcasts’ imaginations,” agrees Armond White at the New York Press. “Even when enlisting kids at their school to help out in the remake, the amateur endeavor never becomes wild, subversive or original.”
Others are more won over: “[A]t its most likable, Son of Rambow evokes the rush of discovery that turns budding cinephiles into lifers–that delight in finding a film that seems to express or coalesce some inchoate yearning, including a yen to share,” writes Jim Ridley at the Village Voice. Dana Stevens at Slate dislikes the ending but still finds that “Son of Rambow bristles with the anarchic energy of late childhood and a genuine respect for the life-changing power of movies–even (or especially) the schlocky ones.” Michael Koresky at indieWIRE believes the film “jumps uneasily between gritty and surreal, never quite plumbing the depths of the childhood imagination as winningly as darker though more convincingly fanciful films like ‘Heavenly Creatures’ or ‘The Butcher Boy,'” but likes the way “the writer-director refrains from stargazing, dewy appeals to the ‘magic’ of cinema, even at the film’s effectively emotional denouement.” And Manohla Dargis at the New York Times adds that “although the film’s visual style feels more borrowed than organic, there’s enough truth to Will and Lee’s actions — and to the uninflected, touching performances of the two young leads — to keep the film humming along, even when Mr. Jennings veers into sentimentality and lets one too many tear drop.”
[Photo: “Son of Rambow,” Paramount Vantage, 2007]