Standing Up: Film Review

Standing Up Still - H 2013
Darker themes are only hinted at in this bland children's film.

A pair of misfit adolescents embark on a shared adventure in D.J. Caruso's family film.

A children’s oriented feel-good tale based on The Goats, a successful young adult novel by Brock Cole that apparently contained darker elements, the generically titled Standing Up registers as a mildly inspiring if familiar tale of adolescents standing up to bullying. The presence of such familiar faces as Radha Mitchell and Val Kilmer might attract some theatrical interest to this low-budget effort from director D.J. Caruso (The Salton Sea), but the film is inevitably destined for a quick segue into home video formats.

Set in 1984, it concerns the dramatic repercussions of a vicious prank played on 11-year-old Howie (Chandler Canterbury) and 12-year-old Grace (Annalise Basso) shortly after they separately arrive at an upstate New York summer camp (scenic Georgia locations substitute nicely). The two are left marooned on an island in the middle of a lake, stripped of their clothes and left to stay there overnight.

Resourcefully managing to escape, they flee the camp and embark on their own three-day adventure, awaiting the arrival of Grace’s hotshot lawyer mother (Mitchell). Along the way, they discover unexpected hidden resources, managing to steal some clothing from a rude concession-stand vendor and conning their way into a free hotel room. They also have a troubling encounter with a vaguely menacing deputy sheriff (Kilmer, in full sleazy mode).

But while its theme of youthful empowerment inevitably strikes an emotional chord, the film never manages to achieve any dramatic steam, plodding along in mildly diverting but essentially bland fashion. That it works to the extent that it does is largely due to the appeal of its young lead performers, who vividly convey their characters’ growing confidence and emotional bond as they endure their shared travails.

Devoid of humor or the sense of menace that would have made the proceedings more emotionally involving, Standing Up represents a missed opportunity. Even its target younger audience is unlikely to respond with anything more than mild indifference.

Opens: Friday, Aug. 16 (ARC Entertainment)

Production: AR Films, Aldamisa Entertainment, Seven Star Pictures

Cast: Chandler Canterbury, Annalise Basso, Radha Mitchell, Val Kilmer, Kate Maberly, Charles Carroll, Alexus Lapri Geier, Justin Tinucci

Director/screenwriter: D.J. Caruso

Producers: Alexander Rodnyansky, Geyer Kosinski

Executive producers: John McAdams, Sergei Bespalov, James D. Brubaker, Ken Aguado, Boris Teterev

Director of photography: Alex Nepomniaschy

Editor: Josh Bodnar

Production designer: Thomas Valentine

Costume designer: Carolyn Berger

Composer: Brian Tyler

Rated PG, 93 min.