Director: Peter Care
Writer: Jeff Stockwell, Michael Petroni
Producers: Jodie Foster, Meg LeFauve, Jay Shapiro
There are a lot of “coming of age” movies that twinkle our emotions because they manage to connect us to the affection that we still hold for the days of old. Films like STAND BY ME or THE VIRGIN SUICIDES, for example. The events in this film, the experimentation with drugs, alcohol and sex, the rampant imaginations, the white lies, the big secrets, the over-emphasis on the smaller issues…all connect because many of us have gone through it all as well. One of the film’s greater qualities is its ability to capture the carefree nature of the boys and the bond of their friendship. At that age, you really do believe that your teachers are your biggest enemies in the world and that your buddies will be your goombahs for life. The film feels very authentic and sincere in all of its forms, with the dialogue, the chemistry between all of the characters and the story itself feeling real, funny and dramatic at the same time (always a difficult task). Is it original? Not really. We’ve seen and heard most of this before, in fact, I think Jena Malone has been playing this very same character in her last few movies (admittedly, she does play her very well though). But the film’s animation angle is very unique, the actors are all very precise, especially Kieran Culkin who clearly possesses a deeper talent, and even Vincent D’Onofrio comes through as the priest who doesn’t seem to know what the heck he’s doing. Emile Hirsh is also very good as the lead youngster, especially when he gives that final speech…heart-wrenching…great job!
Unfortunately, the film does spend a little too much time on a subplot concerning a cougar, Jodie Foster is just “okay” as the peg-legged nun (although all of the adult characters seem to have purposely been written one-dimensionally from the kids’ point of view), the whole William Blake connection seemed a little far-fetched for kids their age and there weren’t really any memorable sequences (now that I think back, I can’t remember a one, really). But overall, it still managed to capture me with its heart in the right place and its youthful characters, all of which were portrayed brilliantly. In tandem with its complementary animation sequences, it made for a solid coming-of-age story.