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'Son of Rambow'

If Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn had had access to a camcorder, they might well have dreamed up the offbeat adventures in this movie-besotted movie.

It's 1980s Britain, and Will (Bill Milner) is a sheltered 11-year-old who keeps depravity at bay by reciting Bible verses with his Plymouth Brethren family under the marquee of the local bijou. Inside the theater, Lee — a bit of a bully at 12 — smokes cigarettes as he makes a pirate copy of Rambo with his brother's videocam. Though they're from different worlds, both boys are outcasts at school, and when circumstance throws them together, Lee conscripts Will as lackey and costar in the amateur Rambo sequel he's shooting.

Devout, submissive Will initially finds the project guilt-inducing, but boyhood will out, and soon he's smearing himself with dirt, leaping into stunt work, and recruiting schoolyard extras — including a French exchange student in pointy red boots who may just be the world's least likely ninja warrior.

As Lee worries that he's losing control both of his movie and of his buddy (they're blood brothers by now), director Garth Jennings lets things turn serious for a bit, without ever giving up entirely on the laughs. Son of Rambow is a ramshackle affair, but it's hugely appealing — the film-within-a-film, in a way, on a bigger budget.

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Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.