SIFF Hides Son of Rambow, Its Gala Opener, From Nasty Critics

Why give a Sundance success the Snakes on a Plane treatment?

It's starting, and it hasn't even started yet. The 33rd Seattle International Film Festival announced its schedule last week, and we'll publish our annual preview next week, just before the opening-night gala on Thursday, May 24. That happens at McCaw Hall, upstairs, above SIFF's new 400-seat home venue, which has been plagued with an annoying, high-pitched buzz in the audio system—perhaps the curse of filmmakers rejected from the fest.

Traditionally, SIFF divulges its massive schedule (see www.seattlefilm.com) on the same day it press-screens the festival opener. This year represents a curious exception: Instead of showing us some overhyped mediocrity like Addicted to Love (1997), Valentín (2003), or The Notebook (2004), the SIFF-meisters are keeping critical eyes away from Son of Rambow. Is this like Hollywood refusing to show its teen torture porn until after it's got your money? Given that the SIFF gala costs $45–$50 (with optional $150 VIP upgrade), one might suspect a conspiracy. Yet the 1980s-set Britcom Rambow, about two preteens inspired to remake First Blood (aka Rambo Part I) with toy guns, homemade props, and a clunky VHS camera, got favorable reviews at its Sundance premiere—"a sweetly raucous adventure," per Variety.

And therein apparently lies the problem. SIFF has a solid opener this year, worth the money and bother of dressing up, but Rambow's new owner, Paramount Vantage, is getting all cute with its nearly $8 million acquisition at Sundance. Since then, the studio has embargoed any further reviews, apparently wanting to protect its future financial interest. (Good reviews would hurt the film? Go figure.) At Sundance '06, let's recall, Little Miss Sunshine sold for $10 million and went on to gross 10 times that amount. But Sunshine was in American English, and Rambow may require, ahem, translation in overcoming its U.K.-ness. Its filmmakers didn't score so well with their last effort, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which Paramount surely remembers.

I'm not suggesting that a cruel knife job will follow, à la Harvey Weinstein and Miramax (or Stallone in Rambo, for that matter), but you may want to see this version while it's available. Because next year your friends may be telling you, "I liked the movie just fine, except for the soundtrack by Linkin Park. And why did those two English kids sound exactly like Haley Joel Osment and Macaulay Culkin?"

bmiller@seattleweekly.com

 
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