Screenwriters: Garth Jennings
Starring: Bill Milner, Will Poulter, Jessica Hynes
Running time: 97 mins
Son Of Rambow fails to capitalise on a cracking premise, with an uneven script that flits awkwardly between occasional moments of humour and contrived drama.
The tale, set in the early 1980s, follows sheltered ten-year-old Will (Milner) as he strikes up an unlikely alliance with the streetwise kid and film fan Lee (Poulter). The pair opt to play truant and make a very unofficial sequel to Rambo: First Blood using whatever is at their disposal - with an added 'w' down to dodgy spelling rather than artistic intentions. However, Will's ultra religious mother and Tim's miscreant older brother prove to be severe obstacles and threaten the completion of the film. Will the youngsters be able to patch up their ailing friendship in time and manage to repel an artistic threat from across the Channel?
The performances of the two young leads are largely impressive and capture the innocence and resourcefulness of youth. Milner and Poulter both display a natural propensity for humour, although the latter struggles slightly with the supposedly heart-rendering scenes in the latter half of the film. This is effectively representative of the film as a whole.
Rambow noticeably sags whenever the focus shifts away from the kids' guerrilla filmmaking process, which contains several moments of supreme hilarity. The spindly Will's attempts to step into Sly Stallone's napalm-caked boots are inspired, as is comedy legend Eric Sykes's brief cameo as an nursing home patient unwittingly roped into making a special appearance. The surreal, macabre tone that director Garth Jennings excels at is also boosted by a wonderful and imaginative fantasy sequence that both entertains and represents the workings of a child's mind and many viewers will relate to.
Sadly, whenever the narrative probes the unhappy domestic lives of Will and Lee, tedium takes hold. Both family subplots, dominated by misguided parental figures, are woefully underdeveloped and appear to have been awkwardly inserted in a bid to heighten the emotional impact of the kids' journeys. Alas, it only serves to detract, especially when the denouement is so reliant on Lee's relationship with his older brother, who serves as a mere plot function rather than a character. Furthermore, the painfully misguided presence of French exchange student Didier's impact on the film - and our patience - makes us crave to be watching the Rambo rip-off movie the kids are making instead of the one Jennings has helmed.
Ultimately, the tonal clashes between surrealism and realism, comedy and drama manage to scupper the potential Son of Rambow had to be a real gem. This review may well seem to harshly dwell too much on the negative aspects of a fairly decent film. Yet it's hard not to feel slightly dejected, as rare moments of brilliance only serve to stress what might have been.