In the 1980s, three Mississippi 12-year-olds famously spent six years filming a shot-for-shot VHS remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark. The misfit heroes of writer-director Garth Jennings's whimsical comedy—two enterprising British schoolkids inspired by the early Sylvester Stallone vehicle First Blood—feel less kinship to Indiana Jones, the keeper of covenants, than to John Rambo, the army of one. All but abandoned by his parents and mistreated by his caddish older bro, the conniving Lee (Will Poulter) takes a page from Rambo and passes along the hurt to someone else: a dreamy, repressed tyke named Will Proudfoot (the elfin Bill Milner), whose religion makes the sign of the cross against demon cinema. Together, the two muster a homemade back lot to shoot the titular epic—a project that ultimately involves runaway jeeps, goofy stunts, and a glamorously bored French exchange student (Jules Sitruk) who staves off ennui long enough to kick some ninth-grade ninja asses. Jennings finds a tone that's more winsome and less desperately wacky than his film version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, especially as the movie-within-a-movie mutates into quirkily revealing psychodrama. More a modest pleasure than a rousing success, the movie nonetheless captures a young cinephile's delight in finding a film that seems to express or coalesce some inchoate yearning, including a yen to share.
Poulter (left) and Milner go to war.
Opens at Guild 45, Fri., May 9. Rated PG-13. 96 minutes.