Maggie Ferreira, Paramount Vantage
Will Poulter, left, as Lee Carter and Bill Milner as Will Proudfoot in a scene from "Son of Rambow."

SON OF RAMBOW — *** — Bill Milner, Will Poulter, Jessica Stevenson; rated PG-13 (violence, profanity, vulgarity, brief gore, nude artwork); see Page W2 for theaters

When a film is as creative and as imaginative as "Son of Rambow," you can forgive it for a few stumbles.

In the case of this nostalgic '80s-era comedy, those stumbles are some bits of occasional nastiness, as well as a few bad-taste elements, such as an unfortunate tendency to make fun of organized religion.

Fortunately, those things are only minor distractions and don't overwhelm the movie. On the whole, it's pretty good-natured, sweet and rather goofy.

And as the amusingly, deliberately misspelled title suggests, this British coming-of-age tale features parts of an unofficial "sequel" to Sylvester Stallone's violent and bloody 1982 hit, "First Blood."

Two very unlikely friends have seen the film. They're Will Proudfoot (Bill Milner), an unpopular but artistically talented youngster, and Lee Carter (Will Poulter), the bully at Will's school.

Using some borrowed video equipment, Will and Lee try to make their own, very amateurish film. The surprisingly fearless Will is the alleged star and creative force, while Lee goads him on to bigger and badder "stunts."

As you might expect, the two need to overcome several obstacles during the production, not the least of which are the objections of Will's strict mother, Mary (Jessica Stevenson), and Lee's cruel older brother, Lawrence (Ed Westwick).

Screenwriter/director Garth Jennings ("The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy") based the tale on some of his experiences growing up. He also makes good use of the idyllic British settings and period music (the soundtrack includes songs by Depeche Mode, The Cure and others).

And Jennings gets natural, capable performances from his youngest cast members. This might be Milner's first big-screen role, but you'd never know it. He's every bit as fearless as the character he plays, and he's likable as well.

That isn't meant to slight the contributions of newcomer Poulter, who's good, too. It's to his credit that we come to care about and to sympathize with a character who can be pretty cruel and unthinking at times.

"Son of Rambow" is rated PG-13 for some strong action violence (clips from "First Blood," as well as slapstick, vehicular mayhem and children-in-peril elements), scattered strong profanity, some vulgar references and humor, brief blood and gore (the "First Blood" clips), and glimpses of nude artwork (statues). Running time: 96 minutes.


E-mail: jeff@desnews.com