So we went to the cinema earlier on a Media Studies Trip. British Cinema was the name of the day (Indeed, that was the theme of the festival they were running…I think anyway, it wasn’t exactly heavily publicised).
The movie? Son of Rambow. Wow. I would never have imagined a film with such an off the wall, bonkers plot could be so hopelessly formulaic. Writer-Director Garth Jennings seemed to have a passable idea, but he singularly failed to deliver on it, never mind turn it into something worthwhile.
Great directors can take a serviceable plot and make a classic (Examples might include Jaws for Spielberg, Star Wars for Lucas and Sleepy Hollow for Burton). Okay directors can take serviceable ideas and make acceptable movies (The Superman Series springs to mind). Awful directors do this.
So apart from being formulaic what’s wrong with Rambow? Well, the whole exercise is simplistic. Jennings seems content to point his camera with all the eye for framing and excitement of his characters – in whose defense, are children. Jennings takes no risks and makes liberal use of filming cliches. It’s pretty bleak.
It doesn’t help that the whole thing seems kind of pointless. It feels like Mr. Jennings is trying to make a touchy-feely piece. But when almost all his characters are male and most of the few whoa re not are either contemptible or asexual, the whole thing comes across as rather odd. Not even gay, which would be somewhat interesting. It’s a movie about friendship…But none of the friendships make much sense.
Why’s that? Leaps of logic. Alfonso Cuaron’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban suffered similar problems, but was at least well made to make up for it. Here, the way the lead is rather blindly lead by his eventual friend makes little sense.
Less sensical is the fact that he befriends the guy in the first place. The two are utterly incompatible. Well, actually, they only start that way. Lee, who starts out as a jerk and a bully, suddenly becomes a victim and a sympathetic figure.
It’s a device used throughout the film – even paradoxically. For example we learn that Lee’s brother is nasty to him. But then we learn that Lee’s mother causes him no end of problems. So that’s two instances of passing the blame.
Jennings manages to paint about 7 characters as villains. Of them, 3 are redeemed with deus ex machina (This is particularly true of the out-of-place French boy Didier – and if you want to know why he’s out of place, it’s not cos he’s French, it’s because he’s a product of the modern era, not the film’s setting). Another 2 villains are minor characters with maybe 4 speaking parts between them.
Ultimately, by the end of the movie, you’ve seen everything coming from the first few moments of exposure to the various characters. It’s a snooze-fest and it doesn’t help that few of the characters are endearing. You like them well enough in some ways, but you won’t come out caring what happens to them after the film.
Nor will you care much about anything the film says or does. Notably, some of the messages the film tries to send are debunkings of old-fashioned ideals which seem ridiculous even by being mentioned, which makes the whole movie seem a trifle pointless.
Son of Rambow has some pretty good jokes in it, but ultimately it falls flat.