Earlier this year, Sylvester Stallone unveiled his grand scheme for a new Rambo sequel: an elderly Rambo kills like a hundred people. In Son of Rambow, young Will (Bill Milner) sees a bootleg of First Blood and crafts a more inventive follow-up in his head: Rambo’s progeny rescues his father from an evil scarecrow (before you scoff at the absurdity, consider that at no point does he go back and win the Vietnam War). Carter (Will Poulter), the young bootlegger who provides the peek at Blood — Will’s religious mother forbids films — wants to make a movie, and so the lonely oddball and the bully/bullied miscreant strike up a collaborative friendship.
It all sounds a bit twee, I know, but the boys’ delight over First Blood is infectious — a rambunctious paean to the therapeutic joys of imaginary violence. It’s carried out by Hammer & Tongs, an English production team guided by Garth Jennings, whose work here recalls Michel Gondry — not just in the story’s resemblance to Be Kind Rewind, but in his fluid mixing of reality and daydream. Some of the sequences, like a decadent pre-adolescent party rife with temporary tattoos and Pop Rocks, recall the sly concepts of the best music videos (some of which Hammer & Tongs also created), and evoke the fickle weirdness of children and childhood.
Son of Rambow isn’t as oddly moving as a Gondry film. Jennings gets a little too greedy for conflict, resolution and heartstrings in the final half-hour, to the point that Will’s mother seems to have the same epiphany in two different scenes. But it’s worth watching for the virtuosic Rambo sequel: you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll scarcely miss that old guy.