It doesn't take an extraordinary amount of insight to realize that children view the world in a much different way than adults. But it's certainly quite an accomplishment to show this successfully through film, and director Garth Jennings and producer Nick Goldsmith do just that with their second film, Son of Rambow.
The idiosyncrasy that defined their first film, 2005's Disney adaptation of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, continues with Son of Rambow, but there's enough narrative meat that the filmmakers are able to hold back on the abnormality. Based around an early-'80s British private school, the film centers around two students, Lee Carter (the bully) and Will Proudfoot (a whimsical boy). Lee convinces Will to be a stuntman in a movie he's shooting with his older brother's camcorder. After Will is exposed to the badassitude of First Blood (the first Rambo movie), he refashions Lee's film into a sequel called Son of Rambow (the "W" was added to satiate copyright laws outside of the meta-film).
What really makes the film is the level of creativity that went into its production. This could've been just another feel-good fluff film, if it weren't for the innate quirk found in Jennings and Goldsmith's script, as well as the child actors who amazingly carry the story (first-timers Bill Milner and Will Poulter are Will and Lee, respectfully and confusingly). With a story this earnest, you aren't required to bring with any special attributes to the film. The elements that make the film unique -- the completion of the bathroom stall mural, shooting the climax under a towering, abandoned power plant, the semi-animated sequences featuring talking scarecrows -- are immediately apparent.
However, there are some slight misfires in the side-plots. In one, we follow the exploits of French exchange student Didier, whose Flock of Seagulls hairdo and red leather jacket prove funny and affecting, but do nothing to aid the bigger picture. In another side-story, Will is forced to confront his family's high-strung Christian sect that doesn't so much disallow Will's imaginative worldview as much as it decides simply not to mess with it. The sect provides a good adversary to the protagonist's inventive personality, but it's also overly heavy for a movie that's so playful. Although both side-plots are solid stories in their own rights, they feel like misfits in this film.
But these low-points can't stifle Son of Rambow's heart from grabbing the attention of the audience. As a film that celebrates puerile imagination and makes you wonder why creativity is less accepted in adulthood, Son of Rambow is equal parts nostalgia and insight.