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Local Boys
(2002)

Director: Ron Moler   
Cast:
Eric Christian Olsen, Jeremy Sumpter, Mark Harmon


Ever since I started The Unknown Movies, I have always tried to maintain a balance. Not just with trying to review as many bad movies as I do good movies, but reviewing movies from a wide range of different genres. "See that tiny speck way, way out there? That used to be my career!"I do this not only so that my site won't become one-note and predictable like some other movie review web page, but to ensure a high chance that there will be at least one thing of interest for anyone who decides to check me out. (And also reach the highest possible audience for obscure movies, though links at the IMDb and other similar sites.) It isn't easy at times doing this; for one thing, I think it's safe to say there are a lot more unknown movies that are bad than good. Also, some genres are harder to explore. There are thousands of unknown movies to pick from in the genres of action, horror, drama, and even comedy. But go to your local video store and look at the science fiction/fantasy section, and then at the family section. You will see, especially with video stores nowadays starting to clean out their VHS stock, that most of the movies in these sections are well-known, big-budget major Hollywood studio product - leaving very little for me to review that's suitably unknown for this site. I try my best all the same. Looking at my sci-fi/fantasy reviews, I estimate I've covered the genre around 10% of the time, which I think is a pretty respectable figure when you consider those limitations I've described.

But with family films, that's a different story. Doing another rough estimate in my head, I think I've only reviewed family films about 5% of the time. But that's because there are other problems besides well-known big-budget major Hollywood studio product taking predominance in that section. For one thing, a significant amount of space is filled by non-movie product, like collections of cartoons or episodes of television programs. After subtracting that, you're finally left over with true unknown family movies. But there is still a problem. If you look at these family movies, you come across something much, much more prevalent than in other genres. That is, movies that just scream their badness to you from their video or DVD boxes alone. I'm talking about movies like Sherlock: Undercover Dog, movies that often have titles like that one that not only sound utterly moronic, but also fully explain the movie's premise, and how moronic that is as well. You probably are familiar with some of these scream-bad family movies yourself, so there's no reason why I have to explain that I've avoided the Air Bud and Most Valuable Primate films (and not just that they're Canadian). It should also not have to be explained why I have shunned the Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen movies - at least until they came of age and lost their young audience as a result, like so many other child stars before them, meaning that their adult acting careers will likely be confined to soft-core porn films.

With so few good unknown family movies out there, I am as a result reluctant much of the time to explore the genre. About the only times I will do so these days is Sumpter celebrates his acting career staying afloat after this movieif the movie confronting me is especially bizarre by reputation or from its box art, movies such as Hugo The Hippo and Thunderpants. But I still keep looking for family movies that are genuinely good, and not long ago I felt that I might have found one with Local Boys. The DVD package design (including the plot description on the back) gave it a more mature appearance. In fact, the movie seemed aimed at surfers as well as families, and since surfers tend to be older individuals, that raised my hopes of it having a more serious nature - and a better chance of being good. Plus, the movie had something of a respectable cast, including Mark Harmon of St. Elsewhere and Chicago Hope, and Jeremy Sumpter of Frailty and Peter Pan. Sumpter plays "Skeeter" Dobson, a boy living on the California coast with his lonely mother (Stacy Edwards, Chicago Hope) and his older brother Randy (Olsen, Dumb & Dumberer). On Skeeter's twelfth birthday, Randy takes him to the local surf store to buy him his first surfboard. (Surf guitar legend Dick Dale cameos as the surfboard store owner.) but Randy in short notice becomes too busy to teach Skeeter surfing or anything else with him because of a new girlfriend. Fortunately, legendary surfer legend Jim Wesley (Harmon) has moved into the neighborhood after disappearing from the face of the earth for several years, and he starts teaching Skeeter the art of the board, and soon the unlikely duo start becoming good friends.

There's a lot more to the movie that just that, of course. But while there are a few subplots that make their way into things - Randy and his buddies finding themselves being harassed by a tough gang of newly-arrived surfers headed by Chaka Forman (Hyperion Bay), and the anguish Randy's stoner buddy Willy (Giuseppe Andrews, Two Guys And A Girl) is having with a strict father that is threatening to force him to join the Marines - the various turns in the plot that subsequently follow you can probably guess with great accuracy. None of these plot turns, though, is done that well enough to be interesting or compelling enough to make most people want to see them again. Take that whole part about Skeeter and Jim becoming friends. The exploration as to how two people so mismatched in age could find enough common ground to each be as friendly to the other as someone their own age could made for some very compelling, even touching, moments. But the movie instead has the crucial part of this relationship - the building - happen entirely offscreen, so we're unable to put any emotional investment early on into this relationship. The result of this is that we can't expect to get any real return as we follow this relationship later in the movie, no matter what subsequently happens between the two, including the expected part when Jim's dark past returns to haunt him and the friendship gets jeopardized.

Before we get to that part, there is, of course, the eventual meeting of Jim and Skeeter's mother. Which in due time leads to a relationship forming between the two... I think. Of all the relationships in the movie, this one I thought I had a funny caption in mind when I got this still shot, but it turned out upon second thought to be stupid. Sorry.is the most unclear. By the end of the movie it's not been made clear if the two are headed to some kind of deep relationship, in the beginning stages of dating, or are simply friends. The actual time they are seen together is limited and with not much of consequence happening. Even then, it's will be no surprise to most people that Randy in short notice becomes hostile, hostile to his mother for picking another "loser", and hostile to Jim for becoming involved with his mother, let alone daring to befriend his brother and teach him surfing. Yes, I totally agree that this doesn't make any sense, this hostility of Randy coming out of the blue and him seemingly unaware that it was his neglect of Skeeter that lead to all this. Even his own mother points this out to Randy in one scene, though Randy response here gives no more explanation here for his hostility than anywhere else in the movie. It goes without saying just how Randy's frame of mind concerning these issues is at the end of the movie, but it also goes without saying to the audience just why Randy's frame of mind gets changed around. It comes across more as being time to do so than anything else.

When you think about it some more, Local Boys has a screenplay that is really insulting to the audience at times. It's not just that the screenplay is too lazy to properly build the characters and expects us to fill in the blanks from our recollections of these kind of things. It's that the few times it actually tries to resolve things on its own also come across as a equally contemptuous slap to the face. Take that subplot with Willy's fears of his father forcing him to join the Marines, a threat that eventually comes true. (Spoilers ahead.) He's upset by this, enough so that he becomes somewhat suicidal, and literally on the edge of a cliff. But dudddde, his frantic friends tell him, the Marine base you'll be going to is against an awesome private beach! Apparently being with his friends and on home turf isn't that important, since that news instantly has Willy smiling and happy, and his future is never discussed again. Then there's that other subplot with the newly-arrived surfer gang that's pushing Randy and his pals away from the waves. As much as the buffoonish way these louts are presented every time they appear bothered me, it wasn't as much as when Randy and company resolve the problem. And not really that the way their scheme to quell the jerks was as buffoonish as the jerks themselves, but the fact that the movie had up to this point somehow completely forgotten about this subplot for the better part of an hour.

And there's a lot more poorly developed plot material, such as the mother's string of badly-chosen male companions, including one alcoholic ex-boyfriend that Thanks to Quentin Tarantino and subsequent residuals, he could afford to get fat and Dick around in low-budget moviesshows up in one scene to terrorize the boys before disappearing into the night never to appear again. Or Skeeter's serious bouts of near-paralysis whenever he panics, a syndrome which disappears (along with any further mention of it) in the second half of the movie. In fact, I can't recall any plot element of significance in Local Boys to be that satisfying. The movie doesn't just fail at being a drama, but also doesn't succeed at being family-friendly. Despite all outward appearances, the movie proves to have a surprising amount of swearing, and the character of Willy indulges in onscreen toking and other drug-related behavior that parents might not want their children to see. As for the viewers who are surfers and are looking for some cool wave action, they best look elsewhere. None of the surf footage is particularly exciting; movies like Endless Summer would consider the wave antics here strictly warm-up material, and it's obvious that doubles are used in place of the actors for most of the shots. If there's one good thing to say about Local Boys, it's that as unsatisfying as it is, you won't remember it that long afterwards. It's simply too uninspired, too flat, and too lazy to even have the energy that simple badness has.

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See also: In God's Hands, Kenny & Company, Skateboard Madness

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