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This week:
Son of Rambow

Filthy says:
"Son of Rambow, Daughter of Treacle."

Sometimes independent movies are like vegetables, or a trip to the salad bar. Something with a lot of fiber and vitamins in it. It's something healthy, like having your Lucky Charms with milk instead of Bailey's Irish Cream so you don't hate yourself so much after gorging on pure carnival crap: corn dogs, deep fried turkey legs, Ironman, batter-dipped french fries, funnel cakes, jumbo onion rings, snow cones, nachos, cotton candy, Speed Racer, Indian fry bread, deep-fried Snickers, frozen lemonade and chocolate-covered frozen bananas.

If I consumed another sugary blockbuster this week, I knew I would puke. And there is too much valuable hooch in my belly to let that happen. It's been too long since I bellied up to the veggie tray and had something good for me, something to clean out the ten pounds of undigested cinematic crap rotting in my intestines. Something not overly-colored, overly-produced and overly-inane.

After the past couple of weeks, I felt bloated and disgusting. I wanted something good for me, so I went for the movie equivalent of a trip to the hippie co-op. I headed downtown on transit route 52 and caught an arthouse flick, Son of Rambow at the Landmark Esquire, my least favorite movie theater. Rambow is supposedly a quirky comedy about two young boys from different backgrounds who decide to make a movie together.

The problem is, arthouse movies are a crapshoot. There is a hell of a lot of shitty stuff, like you'd find in the bargain grain bins of a co-op, that gets passed off as good just because it was made on a small budget. Son of Rambow isn't another big Hollywood clusterfuck, but it's candy-coated, just more exotic. Like, chocolate-covered, freeze-fried tamarinds from Costa Rica, or honey-dipped grasshopper wings from Africa. It's different enough that it takes a little while to figure out that even though it's different, it's still crap. And not enjoyable, either.

I say it is supposedly quirky because nopthing that tries to be quirky can be. You know, it's like banana-flavored candy. People might say it tastes like bananas, but they know it isn't really because it leaves a funny taste in your mouth. Quirky is when someone's worldview and way of expression is genuinely askew. Fake quirky, like Son of Rambow, is when perfectly normal people pretend to be odd, but are too damn normal to make it believable.

I should have known the movie would suck when I saw all the bullshit about how Sundance loved it. I doubt there is any more self-congratulatory bullshit factory in the world than that wintery week where Hollywood grassfuckers and assgrazers congregate to pretend they give a fuck about movies. The smaller, homelier, sappier and more bathetic you are, the more Hollywood will trip over itself to be seen loving you. Fuck, I wish teen girls were like that. I would have gotten laid so much in high school.

Son of Rabow takes place in the mid-80s, and the movie constantly reminds us of that with shitty new-wave songs by Depeche Mode and Siouxsie and the Banshees. Bill Milner plays a sheltered kid, about twelve, whose mother is involved in a nearly cultish religion that doesn't allow television, movies or radios. He apparently has a fecund imagination and covers his copy of the bible with flipbooks and drawings of flying dogs. Strangely, he is allowed to go to a regular school. Will Poulter plays a wild, rich kid with no parents around. He has a video camera and wants to win a national British competition called Screentest for amateur filmmakers. Through a meet-cute setup, Milner ends up at Poulter's house and sees his first movie, Rambo. It has a profound influence on Milner, and soon the two have the inspiration to make their own flick, Son of Rambow. In the process, of course, the two kids from different backgrounds become fast friends. Milner is dragged back into the cultish religion, only to convince his mother that it was wrong all along; kids should see Rambo.

There is an unnecessary and unfunny subplot about French kids coming to Milner and Poulter's school, including one (Jules Sitruk) who is supposed to be so cool that everyone swoons in his path. He gets wrapped up in the moviemaking and becomes a completely lame and unbelievable plot device to tear the boys apart. Of course, that's only so they can see how much they need each other in the end. The mian problem here is that Sitruk isn't cool. And the way everyone falls all over himself isn't funny, it's just a lame gag that goes on too long.

There is so much else wrong with this movie. First, it wants to be sweet, but it doesn't have the depth to pull it off. Wanting is different than being. Instead of genuine feelings, the movie ladles on fake emotion and cornball situations and dialog. I never felt a God damn thing for these kids because they never did anything genuine. Mostly, they just seemed like pawns in the grand scheme of director Garth Jennings' fake quirkiness.

Milner is one dimensional gee-whiz, "I've-never-seen-this-before". Eventually, though, the poor kid gets swamped by plot, and his behavior becomes inconsistent. Poulter is supposed to be the wild one, but he goes soft awfully quick. Fringe characters such as Milner's mother's zealous male friend and Poulter's Haircut 100 brother are shapeless foils with virtually no redeeming characteristics, and no surprises.

The movie is shot with no style, unless muddy and drab count. (And they don't, unless you're making a snuff film.) The scenes are inconsistent in tone; except that all are dim and gray. There is no imagination put into how they are shot or from what angle. In fact, it all feels like it was shot on the first take, which may be meant to be charming. It's not, though, it's just sloppy. And sloppy is okay when cleaning your room, doing dishes or performing brain surgery. It just ain't acceptable when you're making a movie, though.

The dialog sucks corn from a teacher's ass. It's cornball, obvious and tired. It's also stilted. The movie is supposed to be a comedy, but not a single joke comes from the dialog. There aren't any surprises or depth in it, either. Mostly, it is "on the nose" talk that simply explains exactly what you see, never adding subtext. Every gag is visual, and in most cases they are set up too far in advance to be funny when you finally get to the punchline.

Finally, the movie ends with one of the boys getting seriously injured, so the other has to finish the film himself, and then surprise the other with a big screen premier in a local theater. It's a sappy conclusion that caps a movie that expects its audience to buy whatever crap it serves. That includes an interlude where all the kids stop and dance to some lame 80s song, or the inexplicable use of a mid-70s Jonathan Richman song. That last bit just seemed a piece of self-indulgence by the director.

I don't know if this movie is supposed to be about the influence and power of movies. I doubt it, because neither of the kids appears to have any love for them, and neither does the director, Garth Jennings. Rambo is just a prop, a silly movie that someone thought it would be funny for kids to imitate.

Two Fingers for Son of Rambow. I don't know; I should stop looking to movies for nutrients. Maybe next week I need to skip the movies and go to a real salad bar. Mrs. Filthy goes to some place called Sweet Tomatoes all the time and comes home with her stretch pants stuffed with corn bread. Maybe if I go with her, I'll get healthy, and when we get home she'll let me fish those muffins out.

Want to tell Filthy Something?



Jim Ferguson of ABC TV

Speed Racer is "One of the most exhilarating movies you'll ever see!"

Filthy's Reading
Graham Greene - Brighton Rock

Listening to
The Breeders - Safari


The Great World of Sound