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Sundance, day eight: Boys on film

Posted by Ty Burr  January 27, 2007 01:55 AM

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rambow.jpg

At every festival, if you're lucky, you finally run into the one movie you've been waiting for -- the one with such originality of story and style, with such brio and cojones, that you just sit there with a stupid grin on your face.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you "Son of Rambow."

One hell of a cheeky monkey, it's about a boy named Will (Bill Milner) who lives with his fringe Christian cult family in the hinterlands of Britain during the 1980s but who nurtures a wild and heroic fantasy life that busts out when A) he meets the school bad boy (Will Poulter) and B) catches his first movie ever, a bootleg video of "First Blood." Soon Will, the bad boy, and the entire school are drawn into videotaping their own action-hero movie.

That's a cute enough storyline but it's the careening grown-up energy and anarchic vision that put "Rambow" over. The writer-director is Garth Jennings, who with producer Nick Goldsmith made the much-maligned "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." (C'mon, it wasn't that bad.) "Son of Rambow" isn't a work for hire but a labor of love, and it feels hand-made by people who are seeing and feeling something for the first time (and laughing about it too). Poulter is a foul-mouthed genius, and the score by Joby Talbot gooses the whole thing along as if it were Fellini for beginners. Actually, the correct reference point might be "Amelie" for middle school boys, but I liked it better than "Amelie." Now I understand why Paramount Vantage paid $7 million for the film and I feel for them as they try to sell this whacked-out romp to middle America.

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Ty Burr is a film critic with The Boston Globe.

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