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Brit Comedies: Part 1     

Posted by Katherine Putnam on March 3rd, 2010

“This has been my best day of all time”

The Brits do it better.

What do they do better? Everything. Fish and chips. Slang. (Seriously, “wazzup” and “dude” don’t hold a candle to “cheers,” “bollocks,” “jumper,” “lift,” “boot,” “bloody,” etc.) Grammar. Sitcoms. (I will blog on Coupling, My Family, Mr. Bean, Blackadder, Extras and the like one of these days.) Developing military uniforms and strategies that result in a bright red line of hard to miss targets.

But that’s all beside the point. What I want to focus on in this post is their great talent for turning out hysterical, unique and memorable comedies. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at one of my all time favorite British comedies: Son of Rambow.

“Make believe. Not war.”

“Finally an action hero we all can relate to.”

I’m not a big Sylvester Stallone fan. In fact, I’m not a Sylvester Stallone fan at all. I’ve never seen any of the Rocky or Rambo films and I intend to keep it that way. I’d never be caught dead watching First Blood; but watching Garth Jennings’ film about two British schoolboys making their own sequel to First Blood for a young filmmakers competition? Well that’s a horse of a different color.

Son of Rambow follows Will Proudfoot (a sweet, sheltered young lad whose religion does not permit him to listen to music or watch any films, even documentaries) and Lee Carter (a creative troublemaker from a broken family) as they form an unlikely partnership, working together to create a film about the son of Rambo[w]’s quest to save his dad. Along the way they become blood brothers (in a ceremony that confirms that the film is set before the general public became aware of the AID’s crisis), find a new star in French exchange student and enigma, Didier, gain a new crew and cast through Didier’s entourage of imitators and admirers, maim a teacher with a flying dog, and, of course, grow closer to each other and their families through the conflicts that arise during filming.

I could praise many things about this film: the acting, the soundtrack, the editing, the camerawork, etc. But what I want to focus on is the imagination and creativity that went into making a film that perfectly captures the spirit and tenacity of young boys.

I love it when I watch characters in a movie and know that I either have met or could (at any time) meet someone just like that character; I love it when a movie depicts real, believable people (instead of stock characters or stereotypes). For example: the way Up captures the character of dogs or the way Return to Me depicts a group of quirky old men who have been friends for a lifetime. What these films have done with the characters of dogs and older men, Son of Rambow does with young boys.

I don’t mean that Lee Carter and Will Proudfoot act as a sort of Everyboy. When you watch them you can see how their families and upbringing have shaped their characters and personalities (how Lee imitates his older brother and acts out to get the attention he is missing at home; how Will’s religious upbringing makes him naive, kind, trusting, generous and remarkably accepting of all people), making them unique human beings. Yet while you can clearly see how their backgrounds have shaped them, they still retain those qualities that seem to be shared by all young boys (at least, in my experience): a desire for adventure, an unmatchable capacity for creativity and imagination, fierce loyalty to their friends and loved ones, and a willingness to try any stunt…no matter how dangerous or ridiculous.

I think that’s what makes Son of Rambow so hysterical to me: no matter how crazy the boys’ escapades get, they still seem real. I can see boys dreaming up a flying dog. I can see them using trash cans and high powered hoses and rope swings and seesaws to imitate the stunts they see in action movies. I can see them trying to create their own sequel to their favorite flicks.

I’ve been trying to show my students that art (literature, films, etc) draws its inspiration (in some way) from life. It may use outrageous or unbelievable circumstances, it may be set in the realm of fantasy or science fiction, but it still depends on human emotions, desires, motivations and, most of all, human imagination. No matter what the setting or subject matter, we should still be able to see some of ourselves in the work, should still be able to resonate with some of its themes and recognize its take on the human experience.

Son of Rambow is quirky, I give you that. But it’s delightfully, believably, refreshingly quirky.

NEXT TIME: Death at a Funeral

P.S.- When watching Son of Rambow, be on the lookout for a scene when a group of boys are riding their bicycles in a V formation. Have your finger ready to hit the pause and rewind buttons: you will laugh hysterically, and then need to go back to make sure what you thought happened really just happened.

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