DVD Review: Bringing Up Bobby (2011)

STUDIO: Monterey | DIRECTOR: Famke Janssen | CAST: Milla Jovovich, Bill Pullman, Marcia Cross, Rory Cochrane, Spencer List, Ray Prewitt
DVD RELEASE DATE: 11/20/2012 | PRICE: DVD $26.95
BONUSES: commentary, on location footage, Q&A at the Savannah Film Festival
SPECS: PG-13 | 95 min. | Family comedy | 1.77:1 widescreen | stereo | subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

 

The joy and frustration of small indie films like Famke Janssen’s 2011 comedy Bringing Up Bobby is found in the rough edges and offbeat storylines that rarely make it into larger-budget releases. For better and worse, lower budgets translate into a longer creative rope which filmmakers either spin into gold or tie into a noose from which their projects hang.

Bringing Up Bobby movie scene

Milla Jovovich and son Spencer List scam their way across Oklahoma in Bringing Up Bobby.

The first third of Janssen’s directorial debut plays like a poorly-made slapstick mess; small-time criminal Olive (Milla Jovovich, The Three Musketeers) and her ten-year-old son, Bobby (Spencer List, The Orphan Killer) are an obnoxious pair of Bonnie & Clyde wannabes, running around Oklahoma stealing cars and scamming the locals while constantly acting as if life is a big joke and they’re its ultimate pranksters. The problem here is that the film itself shares their licentious attitude; its choppy editing, flat acting and overall lack of focus play like amateurish mistakes or what happens when you give a film student a real budget; the whole thing is a loud, uninteresting mess pretending to be edgy and hilarious.

But just as you’re reaching for that eject button, Olive’s shenanigans catch up with her and the film does an emotional 180 as she faces the reality of losing the one thing she actually cares about: her son. Somehow, the film that was acting like an obnoxious teenager grows up fast and gets interesting in the course of five minutes. As bad as Jovovich was doing comedy, she is surprisingly good at playing it straight, especially with the support of Bill Pullman (Too Big To Fail), who also surprises with an underplayed portrait of a real estate mogul named Kent- complete with a convincing Southern drawl. Along with his wife, Mary (Marcia Cross, TV’s Desperate Housewives), Kent adopts Bobby as they try to help Olive straighten herself out. There’s not too much more to the plot, but the characters emerge from act one’s cardboard-pastiche to become genuinely interesting and sympathetic.

By the end of the film, you’re left wondering if that terrible beginning was a low-budget-mistake or a stroke of inspired meta-cleverness by Janssen. Most likely the former, but there is enough offbeat charm to make Bringing Up Bobby‘s strengths outweigh its weaknesses… barely.

DVD extras include commentary by the director, producer, and actor Rory Cochrane (who plays a minor character named Walt.) You also get an on-location featurette and a film festival Q&A which will not answer the question “why was the first third of this film so terrible?”

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About Memo

Memo Salazar attempts many things and accomplishes few. His big three are making films, music, and comics, but he'll throw photography, graphic design and film criticism into the ring for good measure. He'll even make you a hand-painted t-shirt if you ask nicely. You can track his activity here when there's nothing else to do at work.