Though its main characters are even younger - and definitely not American - "Village of Dreams" has a lot in common with the 1986 surprise hit "Stand By Me." For one thing, both are coming-of-age stories told for adults rather than families or children.
The two also stray into some vulgar territory (in the case of the former, it's discussion of physical differences between the sexes) that may trouble some audiences.But where the two definitely diverge is in execution. Where "Stand By Me" blended dark humor and drama, "Village of Dreams" memorably combines fantasy, comedy and drama.
This low-key charmer is partly based on the autobiography of award-winning Japanese painter and book illustrator Seizo Tashima and his identical twin brother, Yukihiko, who recall many of their experiences as youngsters growing up in post-World War II Japan.
Living at the time in a tiny village with their mother (Mieko Harada) and an older sister, the twins are shown as being mischievous pranksters - which often causes their long-suffering mother to beg the irate villagers for forgiveness.
The twins' obvious artistic talents also begin to flourish, which makes them the target of derision by jealous schoolmates and which causes problems at work for their mother, also one of their school-teachers.
But the turmoil in the village and at the school goes almost unnoticed by the boys, who are touched only by the plight of an outcast, who tries unsuccessfully to befriend them, and another classmate, a young girl forced to perform menial labor.
Newcomers Keigo and Shogo Matsuyama are terrific as the young artists and convey the right air of naivete and youthful exuberance.
"Village of Dreams" is not rated, but would probably receive an R for profanity, vulgar sex talk and a couple of vulgar gags, young male nudity and brief female nudity and violence.