On the heels of his first feature, 2005’s critically bashed but not half bad adaptation of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, director Garth Jennings is hitting from the other side of the plate in his latest effort. Son of Rambow leaves behind the territory of the sci-fi epic in favor of a coming of age tale that’s charming and kid friendly but has enough genuine laughs that it avoids getting stuck in the “aw, shucks” territory that it could have occupied.

Son of Rambow follows two British youngsters, hooligan Lee Carter and quiet, religious Will Proudfoot. Both boys are navigating the path to manhood without the benefit of a father figure. Instead, they find John Rambo to latch onto, and in their raucous, harebrained remake of First Blood, they find strength in one another, supporting each other and bringing one another’s dream (such as a menacing flying dog) to vivid life. And while Jennings is apparently unable to leave his music video background completely behind, which results in a couple of fantasies and dream sequences that are out of touch with the rest of the film, the film within a film crafted by Lee and Will is an unabashed love letter to the joys and catharsis of filmmaking.

And yeah, it’s all a little pat, especially with a third act that you’ll swear you’ve seen before. And some moments will have you scratching your head, like a pee wee new wave club that’s apparently nestled in the halls of a British prep school. But warts and all, Son of Rambow is a fun romp through the perils of childhood that even the most cinematically hard hearted can find themselves warming up to.

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