Dream Team -- Film Review

BOTTOM LINE: Adults learn the ropes of sportsmanship from kiddie tug-of-war champs.

Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival

BUCHON, South Korea -- A class of Thai kindergarten boys competing in a tug-of-war championship may sound lightweight for a sports film, but "Dream Team" is utterly charming and delightful. Comedy director Leo Kittikorn knows every feel-good trick in the book, yet the overall impression is not formulaic, but refreshingly witty and true to life. This is largely thanks to a cast of wonderfully expressive kids, and Kittikorn's talent in making their angelic and devilish qualities equally entertaining.

The universal subject and straightforward narrative should help "Dream Team" travel internationally, making it game for kid fests and children's channels. Dubbing could heighten interest of young viewers.

Huakaew, an asthmatic but determined 5-year-old, decides to enter his classmates into a tug-of-war championship. The only teacher enthusiastic about it is Nee Lok. Next, junior soccer coach Byrd is roped into training the 10 boys. Like Gulliver among Lilliputians, grumpy but good hearted Byrd is completely at the mercy of these mischievous boys.

Not only is each child given a distinctive personality and background, the adult characters are just as wacky and memorable, like the bossy mother, the geeky dad who applies rocket science to rope-pulling and even a ghostly apparition that sends up cliches of Thai horror.

In less than 90 minues, the audience become so familiar with the boys, their innocent fears and dreams, one automatically roots for their victory. The production is not extravagant, but it is well-edited and attractively shot with a breezy tempo.

"Dream Team" is atypical of traditional Asian children's films that express grown-up values and didactic intentions, yet equally unlike mainstream Hollywood fare that calculatingly targets distinct age groups in subject and style. The film reflects what the contest means through a child's eye as well from an adult's perspective. Often, Kittikorn shows parents and children talking at cross purposes as kids have their own logic such when the geek's son says he'd rather be among the world's 80% losers rather than 20% winners, "because 80 is a bigger number."

Avant Company Ltd presents/RS Public Co. Ltd.
Cast: Kiat Kitcharoen, Sakonrot Waraurai.
Screenwriter-director-producer: Leo Kittikorn a.k.a. Kittikorn Liawsirikun.
Executive Producer: Kriangkai Chetchotisak, Surachai Chetchotisak
Producer: Jantima Liawsirikun
Director of photography:Jiradech Samnangsanor
Music: Giant Wave Co. Ltd
Costume designer: Worathon Kritsanakun.
Editor: Worawat Naqalasin.
Sales: Avant Co Ltd.
No rating, 87 minutes.